The man in the tuxedo cautiously walked through Casino Royale in search of Le Chiffre. He came to the Baccarat table where he saw Vesper sitting with cards in front of her. The tuxedo man stood for a moment when one of the bodyguards for Le Chiffre turned to him and pulled a weapon. The tuxedo man pulled his Walther PPK and fired on the man, hitting him in the chest three times dead center. Men in security uniforms came rushing up with guns drawn and yelled for the tuxedo man to drop his weapon. He didn't, and raised the gun to protect himself as the guards all fired on the man, killing him.
Las Vegas Metro PD homicide Detective Lynn Carter and Sergeant Frank DeAngelo, AKA Deacon, had arrived about thirty minutes later to find the body covered with a sheet and the gawkers were held back by the crime scene yellow tape. The hotel security at the Rio Hotel and Casino were busy keeping tourists from being in the area, but it was difficult as it was now a place of interest.
Lynn bent down to the body, lifting the sheet and then looked to Joe Lang, County Coroner, and asked, "Who is he, Joe?"
"Name's Mike Finch, business cards in his wallet says had a stock brokerage over in Summerlin. They say he strolled in and pulled a twenty-two and started firing. He hit three people, luckily, no one was killed, and then security had to put him down when he refused to stop. They say he looked like he was drugged, but I'll know better when I get him back to the morgue and dig into him."
"Thanks Joe, another meth head gone bad probably," Lynn said as she stood, looking down at the man in jeans and blue dress shirt.
The next day I was in my office when the woman came in the front entrance ringing the small bell on the door making its tinkling noise. I sat waiting for Lacey, my office manager and receptionist to let me know what I had in store.
She came to my private office door and said there was a woman wanting help. I stood and went out to find an attractive blond, about five-six and well built standing at the counter.
"Hi there, I'm Jim Richards, how may I help you." I was careful how I worded things since she was a looker and I didn't want my wife to misconstrue my intentions. My beautiful Las Vegas TV talk show host and wife, Penny Wickens-Richards had this telepathy thing about her that could tell if I was unfaithful even in my mind, so I was always cautious about my wording.
"I'm Celeste Finch and my husband was murdered and I want you to bring the killer to justice. I know who the killer is and you have to prove he did it."
"Okay, please follow me to my office and we'll talk." I winked at Lacey as she sat at her desk and took the widow to my office. I motioned her to the client chair as I sat at my desk.
"You say you know who your husband's killer was? Have you told the police?"
"Yes, I told this Detective Carter, but I think she thought I was crazy. I need someone to investigate and not make fun of my suspicions.
"Okay, I personally know Detective Carter, and she is a fair and dedicated homicide officer, but sometimes things don't always add up for the police. You may have some important information that may help me to solve your case, information that the police may not look into. Can you tell me more about what happened?"
"Three nights ago my husband, Mike and I took some business clients to the Fitzgerald Hotel to see this hypnotist and the man called my husband to the stage to help. He hypnotized my husband and told him he was James Bond and had him act out a few things that Bond would do, stand like him and tell the audience that he was agent 007. Yesterday my husband left our home then went to the Rio Hotel and into the casino where he shot three people before the security shot him dead. I don't blame the guards, I say the hypnotist had him commit the attack that resulted in his death. The police said they'd look into it, but I think they were just blowing me off."
"Well, I'll have a talk with Detective Carter and see what they have done on this. Do you want me to investigate?"
"Yes, Mr. Richards, I hear you are a good detective yourself and help people. Please clear my husband's name and take down this man."
"I'll see what I can do. What did your husband do for a living?"
"He was an investment broker, handled lots of money transactions for his clients, one of whom we took to the show that night."
"I see, do you think the death of your husband was in connection to his business?"
"I don't know; he never spoke to me about his business. If there was any money stolen or transferred because of this, I wouldn't know."
"Okay, please write down everything I need to know, names and places, times of the incidents, and where I can reach you." I pushed my pad of paper and a pen to her as I caught a glimpse of her ample breasts in the low cut blouse; I was going to catch hell for that later.
She spent about ten minutes writing and then pushed the pad and pen back to me. "Thank you, this is my rate card, will you be able to pay for my services? I'm not trying to be rude, but some people who come here aren't very well off and still I try to help them." She looked to the card I handed her with my rates and then took out her wallet from her purse and removed four hundred dollars in large bills and put them on my desk. "Money's no problem for me, here's the retainer. Mr. Richards, please take this killer down for me."
"I'll do my best." We stood and she went out of my office as I followed her to the lobby, getting a good look at her caboose. Well-rounded, oh hell, I was going to suffer for that too, when I got home.
She turned, smiled and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, I've read a good number of articles in the Review-Journal about your exploits. I know I can trust you to catch my husband's killer."
"I'll keep you informed, thank you for trusting me with this." She took my hand and we shook, her hand was very soft and warm, giving me thoughts, another reason I was doomed when I got home.
She left and I turned to Lacey, she said with a smile, "I know what you were thinking,"
"Well, stop it. I'm not going there and I'll be dead if I did." I went back to my office and sat trying to think of things that were not sexy, like old fat women in spandex and gray hair. That did it.
I got home around five o'clock and Penny was busy making some good smelling dish. "I didn't stop by today at the office because I had a couple of famous Las Vegas Chefs on my show today and I wanted to try out a couple of dishes they showed me to whip up."
"Well, it smells delicious. What's it called?"
"I can't remember, something Italian, but I remembered the ingredients. So go clean up and get ready for a great meal."
I turned to go to my personal bathroom, it was nice that we each had our own, and I was being followed by our toy Yorkie, Willy. He came into my bathroom with me and I set him on the closed toilet so he could watch as I washed and shaved around my beard. I washed my face and the top of my baldhead and thought about getting some of those hair transplants to fill out my empty space on top. But it would ruin my charming looks, sort of a favorite grandfather type, who everyone trusts and loves. I finished and picked up Willy and we went back out to the dining area where Penny had set out a great spread complete with the good silverware. I sat at my spot as Penny put the hot dishes on the table and then sat.
"How was your day and did you chase after any good looking women?" she asked.
I was in trouble. I'm not very good at telling Penny tall tales and so I just fessed up, "I had a very attractive woman in today looking for me to catch her husband's killer. Yes, I did look but that was all."
"Good boy, now enjoy your food," was all she said, I was spared the inquisition. We ate and it was very good, a first for my wife.
We finished and I helped clean the table as Penny put the dishes in the dishwasher and we retired to the living room with our beer and chips. We were watching the big screen TV when the driveway alarm went off. I went to the small TV monitor, scanned the area, and saw nothing but a dark colored sedan. The person who had driven it must have gotten out quickly and came to the door. The bell rang and I had my hand on my Glock as I went to the door, opening it, and stared at the visitor. It was our favorite mob wiseguy, Angelo.
"Angelo, what are you doing here, are you alone? I'm sorry, where's my manners, come on in," I said as I held the door wider.
He thanked me and entered, nearly filling the doorframe. He was a huge man, mostly muscle, not really tall, about my height, five-ten and he had to be in his fifties now. He had the face of an Italian mob figure, more Sicilian but a chiseled sort of image. We first met Angelo in Vegas when Penny and I came out here from Michigan to get married and he was told to be our bodyguard by his mother Francis, a mafia grand lady who was also out here getting married to don Gino Traviano. I was part of the rescue of Francis from the clutches of the Bridezilla killer and the New York family sort of adopted Penny and me.
"Angelo, please sit," I said as I directed him to our most comfortable chair. Willy came running over and was bouncing around his feet. He remembered the big guy from past encounters. Angelo grinned and picked up the pup and held him on his lap. "So why are you here, is everything all right back in New York?" I asked.
"Oh sure, Mr. R. everything is hunky-dory. I just felt like I needed a change, and told my sainted mother that I had to try something new. She agreed and said I was a big boy now and should get out and explore life. I felt really good the last time we were out here bringing that hitman to you."
"Yes, that was just a couple weeks ago. So you are coming out here to visit?"
"No Mr. R., I decided to move out here, at least to see how much I like the place."
Penny asked, "Angelo, where are you staying?"
"I got in this morning and got a room at the Tropicana, it's a nice place, that's why the family always stays there when we come out. I bought a car and I'm going to look for a small apartment this week."
"Angelo, why don't you stay in our guesthouse, it's private and you would be able to come and go when you want," Penny said. I was in agreement and said so.
"Gee, Mrs. R. that would grand, I wouldn't be no burden on youse guys," he said with a grin.
I noticed his way of talking like a wiseguy was slipping back. I thought he was doing well and must have been taking lessons to talk without sounding like Joe Pesci in the movie 'Casino'. In fact, Angelo reminded me a lot of Joe Pesci.
"Sure Angelo, you can use the guesthouse, we'd be happy to have you as a neighbor," I said.
"Well, that's real nice. Thank you, just till I can get started out here. Do you know of any places hiring that could use my expertise?" he said with a grin.
I didn't know any mob families out here, but I think he wanted to be away from the life. "What kind of work are you thinking of getting into?" I asked.
"Well, I've only had one job mosta my life, but there's no real job openings for breaking legs," he said with a slight laugh. He knew what he was and the transition to a 'normal life' would be a challenge.
"Well, I can give you temporary work at my investigation business. We have a number of bodyguard jobs for celebrities that come in, how's that sound?"
"Yeah, dat sounds great."
"Okay I'll talk to my partner, Buck and he can get you started. He's in charge of security for hire. So are you in the hotel now, can you move your stuff here today?"
"Whatever you say Mr. R., I can do it. I only have a coupla of bags; I flew out on the family jet. They dropped me off and went back."
"Okay," I looked to Penny and she nodded, "We should go get you moved here then." Penny was already up and getting her purse and Willy's travel bag, but Angelo was holding on to the dog, so she just carried the bag. We all went out to the nice black Ford sedan he purchased and Angelo drove us all over to the Tropicana. On the way he was telling us about his mother and that she was getting more into Pilates and Tai Chi. I had to chuckle thinking about an aging mob queen doing Pilates.
We arrived at the hotel and went to his room, then to the front desk to cancel his stay. We took his bags and went back home and Angelo was delighted with the small house. It had only one large room with a separate bath and a kitchenette. "This is perfect," Angelo beamed. "I'll be real careful with it, no parties, or busting up the place."
I laughed, "I hardly think you'd do those things. Put your stuff away then come back to the house and we'll celebrate your new home." We left him to unpack and went back to the main house.
"I sort of like having Angelo here," Penny said, "He would be a good protector for us and company for Willy," she laughed as I was looking for Willy. "He's with Angelo, he didn't follow us out."
"Well we know where his loyalty lies. I'm sure he'll get tired of Angelo when he doesn't get fed."
We sat until Angelo came to the door and knocked. I let him in and handed him two keys, one for the guesthouse and one for our house, just in case. He thanked me and we sat the evening talking and relaxing. Around eleven we said good night and he went back to his room. Penny and I retired to the bedroom.
Early the next morning I heard slight noises from out in the house and quickly pulled on pants and a shirt, grabbing my Glock from the bed stand, I quietly went out. I could hear tinny noises from the kitchen area, snuck around the doorway and looked in. Angelo was in the kitchen and it looked like he was making breakfast. I just stood there for a minute or two and then he turned to head towards the door I was standing in.
He looked surprised and said, "Hey Mr. R. I was just going to call youse guys to breakfast. I made pancakes and I know Mrs. R. likes oatmeal. You should go get Mrs. R. and let her know so her food doesn't get cold."
I grinned and went back to the bedroom, Penny was up in her robe and waiting for me to let her know what was going on. I told her and she breezed past me and went out to the kitchen.
"You made pancakes?" she smiled as she looked at the big stack of dollar bill size cakes. "I love pancakes, where did you get the ingredients?"
"Well, you had everything I needed in the cupboards."
"Hmm, I really don't even know what I have up there. I'm not much in the kitchen."
"Well, youse don't have to worry about that, I'm a gourmet cook, I learned from my grandmother, she had a great little restaurant in New Joisy."
I was watching the two of them and could see Penny's eyes going wide. I had a feeling we had a cook.
We enjoyed the pancakes and Penny even found room for the oatmeal and I had my toast on top of it all. We had to get ready for work; Angelo went back to his room to get ready to go with me to the office so I could get him set up with Buck.
Penny went off taking Willy with her and I got into my Crown Vic, only because I needed to start my investigation today. I told Angelo to follow in his car so he'd have it to get around. We arrived at the office and came through the back way and down the hall. I was whistling so I wouldn't scare Lacey and I heard her yell, "I hear you".
We came out of the hallway and her eyes went big as she saw Angelo. "Angelo, how are you?"
"I'm good Miss Lacey, how is you?"
"Great, are you here to visit?"
"He's moved to Las Vegas, and I'm going to put him to work. Do we have any bodyguard service coming up?" I said.
"As a matter of fact, we got a call this morning; I was going to wait for Buck to come in to see if he had a spare guard to take it. If you want I can set Angelo up with them."
"What and who is it?" I asked.
"Some actress from LA is coming to town and needs one man for protection."
"Okay, I'll have to get you bonded and licensed to carry under our business permit.' I said to Angelo. "Do you still carry that big .357?"
"Of course, I never leave home wit out it."
"Well, we have to do it by the law here now, just to cover our asses. I'll ask Lynn if we can get you pushed through so you can start work." I turned to Lacey, "When's this actress coming?"
"Tomorrow, around eleven in the morning, Angelo should meet her at McCarran Airport. She'll have a car waiting so they won't have to drive."
"Good, I need to go talk to Lynn so you can come with me," I said to Angelo. We left and went to Metro PD. Lynn and Deacon were both out in the parking lot talking and saw us drive in.
Lynn said as we approached, "Angelo, good to see you, are you in town visiting?"
I spoke, "No he's living here now and I'm putting him to work. He has a protection job tomorrow for some actress coming in."
"Do you mean, Tandy Messner? I heard she is going to be here around noon."
"Tandy Messner? The sexy female from "Lust in the Dust'?" I said now wanting to take the job myself.
"Don't even think about it. Penny would castrate you if you took on the job." Lynn laughed when she saw my eyes light up.
"I would love to, but I have a new case and I need to talk to you about it. I'll fill you in shortly, but first I need to get Angelo set up with a CCW so he can carry that cannon of his for his new job."
Lynn smiled and turned to Deacon, "Why don't you take Angelo and go see your contacts and get him set up. I'll talk to Jim about his case."
"Glad to, come on Angelo, we have some people to go threaten," he said and led Angelo back into the building.
"Now what do you need and what is your new case?" she said to me.
"I'm representing the widow of Mike Finch, you drew his case yesterday. What's the story?"
"Ah, yes. The widow who thinks he was hypnotized into shooting up the Rio Casino floor, and luckily he didn't kill someone."
"Sure, he was lucky enough to be killed himself. Why would an investment broker walk into the casino and start shooting people? What did Joe Lang say about the body, any drugs?"
"Okay, Joe did a preliminary test and found no trace of drugs but the tox won't be back for a day or two. Witnesses say he looked drugged, his focus was not there, and he just looked stiff and wooden."
"Like he was in a trance?"
"You really want this to come out with a supernatural twist?"
"No, I'm wanting the truth."
"Do you know anything about hypnotism?"
"As a matter of fact I do. You know I was once a performing magician and I had a number of friends in the business who did stage hypnotism. I was given the low down on the whole system. A person can't be made to do something they are morally against, say murder, but… here it comes… they can be given a post hypnotic suggestion if worded carefully making the person believe he is in a situation that he thinks is make believe or part of an act. So if Finch was made to believe he was James Bond and told to go through the casino in search of the evil people, he might have done the deed."
"Okay, so we'll look into this from another angle. But you are going to lead this investigation; you may as well earn your big retainer." She smiled and walked to the precinct.
I stood there wondering if I got any real info from her. I decided I didn't. I followed her.
We went into Lynn's office and sat as Weber came by and asked, "Is Deacon aiding a felon looking person?"
"No, Captain, that man is an employee of Jim here, he's going to be a bodyguard for Tandy Messner, the actress."
Captain Weber's eyes lit up and said, "Tandy Messner? 'Lust in the Dust' and 'Wicked Little Women'? Wow, Jim, can I meet her?"
"I can't speak for her, she hasn't arrived in town yet, but I'll see," I said.
"You do that, okay, keep up the good work," he said and went off.
"He's an odd little man," I said.
"Careful, he can hear through walls. Now who is this hypnotist?" Lynn asked.
"I don't know yet, he's performing at Fitzgerald Hotel nightly. I plan to go see him tonight, do you want to come?"
"Yes, I do. I hope he gets you on stage and turns you into a chicken." She said with a grin.
"They don't do that, only on TV and it's a joke. The Amazing Kreskin was the best TV hypnotist and performer. He claimed he was real, and no one ever disputed his claims. He was good."
"This is not TV, this was a real death, and we don't know his motive. Okay, you claim he was hypnotized, if he was, what was the motive?"
"Don't know, but I plan to find out."
About an hour later, after Lynn and I went to the breakroom for lukewarm drinks out of the machines, Deacon and Angelo came back. Angelo was beaming, he said he was all licensed up. Deacon said, "Angelo aced his shooting test. Great firing pattern, all death shots. I'm glad he's on our side now."
"Yep, he's experienced in the art of shooting people, aren't you Angelo," I said.
He grinned and said, "I plead the fifth."
I told Lynn, "I'll call you about tonight."
We left and drove back to the office and in. Trapper was in his office and was surprised to see Angelo. "Hey, how are you doing?"
"Good, I'm working with you guys now."
Trapper gave me a look, I said, "He's moved here and I have him on protection detail. His first job is guarding the body of Tandy Messner tomorrow." I waited for it.
Trapper stood, "Well, I'm sure Angelo will need back up. I can go."
"I'm sure you would be up for it, and I mean up as in that way. But Angelo wouldn't try and hit on her like some people I know."
"Surely you're not referring to me?" he said then sat back to his desk.
"You see any other horny P.I.'s around here, besides me."
He grinned and went back to his paperwork as I took Angelo to Buck's office. Buck was happy to see Angelo and they swapped hugs. Buck had gone out to New York with me and Earl Daws to find a missing stripper. We found her and Angelo and his family were thankful since Francis' nephew married her.
"Buck, we have a protection job tomorrow and I gave it to Angelo. He's moved out here and I hired him for body guard work."
"Sounds good to me. Glad to have you with us. You need a nice jacket that tells people that you work for us."
Buck went to a freestanding closet, opened it and took out a huge purple blazer and handed it to Angelo. "Try this on." Buck said.
Angelo put the jacket on and it fit well, even hiding his .357 under his shoulder.
"Looks good," I said. I noticed the embroidery on the pocket, saying 'Richards Investigations and Security' in small but readable lettering.
Angelo looked happy and said, "Thanks guys, for this opportunity to do some good."
We all sat for a while talking and then I said to call it a day. We had to be refreshed for tomorrow, and I had to get ready to go watch a hypnotist tonight. I asked Buck if he wanted to come, he said he'd love to, and Maria wasn't working tonight so he'd bring her. I said I'd call about the times and would see him later.
Angelo and I drove our cars back to the house and parked. I had Angelo park behind the garage door leading to the mini-limo since I didn't take it out much. We went in and found Penny watching TV with Willy. She jumped up when we came in and came to me with a big hug and a kiss.
"Wow, what did I do to deserve that?" I asked.
"Just for being my great husband," She smiled.
"Hey Mrs, R. I'm going to bodyguard Tandy Messner tomorrow, isn't that neat?" Angelo said.
Penny looked to me, "Tandy Messner, the sexy adult porn actress? She's coming here and Angelo is going to guard her body?"
"He is, I'm not. Now take that look and put it away. It's a job and Angelo is going to handle it. Tonight we are going to Fitzgerald's Hotel to see a hypnotist. How's that sound?"
"Why?" was all Penny said.
"It's part of my new case, a man shot up the Rio Casino and I think he was under hypnosis while doing it. His wife thinks this guy is the hypnotist who made him do it."
"More mumbo-jumbo. Hypnotists, I had two on my show back in Michigan, they couldn't put me under, not even when they tried."
"That's strange because every time you hear a bell you start clucking like a chicken."
She hit my arm and said, "Stop that, you know that's not true. Angelo, you'll do well guarding this woman, but be careful, she is a celebrity and will be bothered by the paparazzi and hangers on."
"Never fear, Mrs. R. I can handle it."
"Just be sure you use your wits before your gun. Please." I said.
"I won't do anything to get us in trouble, those days are past me now," he said with a grin.
Angelo went off to his little home and Penny and I retired to the couch after nuking some TV dinners. Penny's main dishes that she could handle.
Penny said in my ear, "I want Angelo to come back and whip us up a great Italian dinner."
"Don't push it dear, give him a little time to adapt to us, then we'll hit him up for good dinners."
We sat watching a couple shows that came on and I filled in Penny on my new case. She liked the premise of the hypnotist making the man do a crime. I said it wasn't good for the victims, she agreed.
Around six I called our friends to see who all was going, everyone agreed and so I called for ticket reservations and we got ready. I invited Angelo and he was delighted to go with us. We were ready and I told everyone to meet us in the lobby of the Fitzgerald Hotel outside the showroom. We left the house, putting Willy in the kitchen; he wasn't happy, and then and drove to the hotel.
We arrived at Fitzgerald's and in to find we were last, but I had the tickets in my name so no one could get in until I arrived. Trapper and his lady friend Sam were there, along with Buck and Maria; Lynn and Deacon, all of us. We went into the showroom and sat. After a while the room went dark and the show began. Finally, the hypnotist came out to applause and I sat stunned. I was squeezing Penny's hand and she whacked me, saying, "That hurts. What's the matter?"
I looked to her and said, "I know this guy."
Penny leaned to me and whispered, "Who is he besides the guy claiming to be able to hypnotize people?"
"He started out as a magician and he wasn't very good at that. So he hooked up with a woman who was a hypno-therapist and she taught him about the art of making people fall asleep. But his stage presence makes audiences fall asleep without the hypnosis."
"That bad, huh?"
"Well he was, we'll see after he's finished the show." I sat back and watched.
For the next hour and a half, Jason Biggs worked the crowd, he wasn't too bad, but not as good as some of the other hypnotists on the strip. He wasn't as original or entertaining. He did the standard bits of stage hypnotism, making people do silly things, I think he had a couple confederates in the audience. A confederate is a person who works for the performer and comes up to do staged acts of hypnotism. Faking it.
The show ended and all the audience was appreciative of his performance, but I'm sure most of them had nothing to compare him to or they'd have walked out about an hour and ten minutes ago. Like I wanted to do. I stayed for my friends who seemed to like him.
"Well, I thought he wasn't bad," Penny said as we stood to depart. "Not as good as a couple hypnotists I've seen before but passable."
Lynn came over and said, "You really think this shlock could have hypnotized Finch into shooting people?"
"I told Penny that I knew him from years ago, he's gotten a little better but I have my doubts now about the claim."
Angelo was totally enthused by him, "Wow Mr. R. he was really good, I wonder if that stuff is real, could I be hypnotized?"
I didn't want to tell Angelo that he would make a lousy subject, he was too distracted by his surroundings and wouldn't be able to focus on the whole process of hypnotizing a person. "Angelo, some people are too smart to be hypnotized, you are one of them," I told him, he was happy. Such a simple man he was, and yet he was once a strong arm for the mob. Amazing.
We went to the lobby and Jason was at a table autographing glossies. They were nice, but looked like he took them of himself with a cheap camera. I stood by the table watching him smile and sign for people, he glanced over my way once and then back to his writing. He paused and then looked back to me. I could see the recognition forming in his brain and he grinned.
He continued signing but said loud enough for me to hear, "Jim Richards, how's tricks? Still working the kiddie shows?"
I moved Penny and me closer and said, "Nope, I'm into fighting crime now, I'm a private investigator."
He stopped writing and turned his head to me, "Yes, I thought I had remembered the name, I've read about you in the papers. Must be nice to get that kind of press, catching serial killers and saving the world."
"It has its moments, got a few minutes after you're done making money to talk?"
"For you, of course."
I took Penny back to our friends standing by the lobby waiting. "He's going to talk to me in a bit, we go way back and I didn't care much for him back then. I have a feeling that isn't going to change. If you guys want to take off or go explore Fremont Street, we can catch up later."
Lynn said she was staying, "Just so I can say to the widow that I talked to the hypnotist." She smiled and waited.
Trapper and Buck talked to their 'dates' and decided to go check out Fremont. Angelo wanted to stay to meet Jason, so we waited for him to finish. Not many people wanted his autograph especially since he was charging twenty dollars for the photo and signature.
About ten minutes later he finished and came over to us. "So Jim, how are you doing other than catching criminals?"
"Not bad Jason. This is my wife, Penny Wickens, the host of 'Vegas Alive' on KLAS."
Jason's eyes lit up when he heard that, a lot of the lesser strip performers would love a shot at being on her show.
"Such a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Wickens." She started to explain her name but I held up my hand and mouthed not to worry about it. "I have seen your show a number of times, you are really a great host."
I'm sure Penny wasn't going to offer him a guest spot, so she just thanked him.
I changed the subject quickly and introduced Lynn and Deacon. "Jason these are our good friends, Lynn Carter and Deacon DeAngelo and this man is our friend Angelo DeMario, he's our celebrity protection specialist." Angelo smiled and held out his hand. Jason took it and winced under the pressure of Angelo's grip.
I continued, "Lynn and Deacon are in homicide with the Las Vegas Metro police. We came to see you for a reason. About four nights ago you had a man on stage and convinced him he was James Bond, do you remember that?"
"No, because I don't use the James Bond gag, you may be talking about Franz Leifer, he's the hypnotist that I alternate with here. He probably was the one, I've been off for the last week."
I thought crap, I was hoping he was the bad guy in this scenario. "Do you know when he'll be performing here again?"
"Not until next Saturday. But he is over at the O'Shea's showroom for the next couple days in the upstairs theater."
"Thanks for that, good to see you again. Take care and I'll tell my friends about you." Yeah, like that will happen. We left him standing and went out.
Lynn grinned and said, "Do we have to endure another hypnotist?"
"Do you have something against them?" I asked.
"I'm not crazy about being put to sleep and having God knows what suggestions in my head."
"So you think it's possible that Finch could have been under the spell to do the crime."
"I need proof, so Mr. Eye Spy, do your job." She smiled and took Deacon's arm and led him away.
Penny and I stood there watching our friends abandon us. I turned to Angelo and said, "So shall we go back to the house and get ready for your first job assignment tomorrow?"
"You got it Mr. R. I can use the rest, I'm a little jet lagged from the flight out, I'm still three hours ahead from here."
I called Buck and told him we were going back to the house and he said that he and Trapper were taking the women and going out dancing. I said to have fun and hung up. I didn't want to mention to Penny that they were going partying or she would have us up till all hours.
We arrived back home, Angelo went off to his humble abode and Penny and I went in to catch a late snack and relax.
The next morning was Saturday and Penny wanted to sleep in. I let her, then I heard Angelo in the kitchen again. As soon as the smell of sausage and potatoes wafted down the hall, Penny shot out of the bedroom grabbing her robe and was in the kitchen drooling. I followed in her wake and sat at the snack bar waiting.
Penny was happily eating the fine meal that Angelo prepared and then Penny said, "You know you don't have to do this for us."
"It's good for me Mrs. R. I may consider opening up a restaurant like my grandmother had. All good Italian foods." He smiled as he dished out more sausages and then my morning toast, perfectly buttered.
We finished our food and then I said I needed to take Angelo to pick up Tandy Messner at the airport.
"I? You mean we don't you?" Penny gave me the evil eye.
"Oh, did you want to come babe?" I asked.
"I'm not leaving you with that vixen porn star. Even if Angelo is there."
"She's not a porn star, there's a difference between hard core porn and soft core," I said defending Tandy's honor.
"Porn is porn, and you aren't going unless I go with you. Why do you have to go anyway?"
"Angelo is new to this and I need to represent our agency and introduce Angelo."
"Yeah, sure. I'm going."
We all loaded into the car and drove out to McCarran Airport and parked in short-term parking. Tandy was to have a car waiting for her so Angelo would be going with her. Lucky bastard.
We found the chauffer for the car agency with his sign and stood by him. I noticed there were a number of photographers standing around us also. I looked back and said, "Oh look Tandy is behind us by the baggage carousel." Every one of them scrambled to rush over as I stood laughing.
"They're going to get you for that you know," Penny said with a smirk. I just smiled.
The plane had pulled up to the ramp, hooked up and they opened the doors. By now the paparazzi had returned and were snarling at me. I just ignored them and Angelo threatened them, so they all backed off.
I could see her coming out of the departing door and the phototogs all swarmed over to get their shots. I was surprised as Angelo muscled in between them and came up to Tandy putting his arm around her shoulders and said something in her ear. She smiled and cuddled in closer to the big man. She almost disappeared under his cover as he moved forward into the cameramen. He made a growl like I never heard and yelled to move. It was like watching Moses part the Red Sea. They all opened for the huge man and he escorted Tandy to her chauffer.
He looked back to me and winked. I knew she was in good hands.
The chauffeur led Angelo and his charge to the limo parked out front. Penny and I followed as fast as we could but they were in the car and whisked away before I got a chance to say welcome. Penny grinned as I turned to her and she said, "Gee, that's too bad, you missed your opportunity to meet a porn star."
"She's not a porn star," I said and we went back to our car. "I hope all goes well for Angelo, he's new to this kind of work."
"What? Protecting people, he's done that for years with his mob family. He should have it down by now."
I smiled thinking about him in the limo with Tandy Messner. Penny smacked my arm and said, "Stop thinking that."
"What! I wasn't thinking anything," I defended.
"I saw that smile, you better clean up your thoughts."
"Sheesh, I can't always stop my thought processes."
"Well, you can only think about me in my black lace teddy and nothing else."
I smiled again with her in my mind now. She just said, "That's better."
We drove to the office and went in the back door. I was startled by a cowbell ringing when I opened the door. I looked up and saw it was duct taped up on the back of the door and then I thought of Lacey. She came down the hallway and was laughing, "Surprise! You took too long putting up an early warning system on the door, so I took matters into my own. It works."
I gave her a high five and we all went up to the front. "Has Trapper or Buck come in yet?"
"Nope, they both called and said they'd be late, if at all. Long night partying."
"Well, if I were a mean boss, I'd fire the both of them for goofing off."
"But you are a mean boss, and you need the both of them. So leave it be," Penny said.
Lacey went back to her desk and Penny went over to plop down on the couch in the waiting area. Willy jumped up on her, with help. Lacey had picked him up this morning before we went to the airport.
"I need to talk to you about working on Saturdays. Do we really need to do this?" Lacey asked. "If Trapper and Buck can sleep in on Saturday mornings, I should have that respect too."
I thought about it. "How busy have we been in the past for Saturdays?"
"We've had no business on Saturdays other than one woman looking to catch her husband with his mistress. Trapper got that case taken and done. Otherwise it's a useless day."
I stood at the counter and then said, "Okay, go home and we'll just start closing on Saturdays."
"Good, I thank you and Mac thanks you."
"How's Jessie doing?" I asked about the girl who Penny and I took in after her father was murdered by the vigilante killer, and then Lacey and Mac became her foster parents after they got married.
"She's doing great, in school and out. She has a good number of friends and we have P.J. parties for them. Mac likes to tell them ghost stories late at night to scare the bejesus out of them. He can be mean sometimes, but he is a good man."
"Great, I'm glad it's working out. Does CPS still come around to check on her?"
"Yep, they bug us once a month to see if she's getting fed and clothed. I don't care for those people but they have to do their job," Lacey said.
"Fine, go home and we'll hang in here. I'll call Trapper and Buck and tell them to stay home too."
Lacey was out the door about ten minutes later. I was sitting with Penny on the couch and Willy was sleeping between us.
"What do you say we close up the office and go to Sonics for burgers and onion rings?" Willy's head came up fast and then he stood. Penny laughed, "Do you think he can understand us?"
"I hope not, especially when we're having sex."
We closed up the office and went to Sonics to eat in the car. I liked to watch the carhop girls roller skate out to the cars carrying trays of food, they were good, not one spill while we were there. I was enjoying my food and wondering how Angelo and Tandy were doing.
Penny mumbled, "Don't go there." Damn, the woman was psychic.
Angelo sat back in the limo as it traveled to the Las Vegas Convention Center where the World Adult Film Expo and Awards convention was being held.
He was a bit overwhelmed by it all. He may have once been in a rough trade for the mob, but he hadn't been real worldly. His family was involved mostly in illegal gambling and numbers, don Gino Traviano was not a friend of prostitution or drugs. He felt men could easily lose their money rather than their virginity or mind. Angelo mostly oversaw the men who would remind the slackers who didn't pay back their bad bets to do so or face consequences. A leg breaker as they were called. Now he was in a limo with a porn star going to a convention of porn film actors and actresses, he was in heaven.
The limo pulled up to the entrance of the convention center and there were a good number of people outside waiting. Angelo told the driver to hang in with the luggage and escorted Tandy through the crowd outside. They went in and to the registration booth and got Tandy all signed in. Tandy was staying close up to Angelo all the time they were in the lobby and then they went out to find the booth for the video movie company Tandy acted for.
"Tandy!" A man called out as they came towards the booth. "You made it, fantastic. People have been waiting for you."
Tandy introduced Angelo, "Ben, this is my protector, Angelo DeMario, and don't mess with him he used to be with the mafia, or so he told me," she giggled.
"Good to meet ya, Ben," Angelo said as he held out his hand to shake.
"Mafia, eh? Which one, I kind of follow the crime scene."
"Travianos out in New York, before that the DeMario and the Mangelo families. Francis Traviano is my mother."
Ben's jaw dropped a little, then stuttered, "You're serious?"
"You betcha I am," he grinned.
Tandy went to the director's chair behind the table so she could sign photos of herself, as Angelo sat in a chair behind her to watch the crowd. Ben was setting the booth up with boxes of videos to sell and pulling literature out to hand to people. He had three gorgeous women in bikini's staffing the booth to hand out the pamphlets and push the video sales.
After all was running smoothly, Ben came over to Angelo and sat in a chair next to him. He was in awe of the big man.
Angelo sat back and just grinned.
Penny and I had finished our meal, drove over to O'Sheas Casino and went up to the theatre lobby. The theatre wasn't open yet but they had a magic museum that people could visit in a side room. There was a row of counters and display cases with magic tricks for sale, and a tall gaunt man was behind the counters. He greeted us in the almost empty room.
"Welcome folks, interested in magic?" he said as we approached the counter.
I showed an empty hand and then produced my business card out of the air. He smiled, "A magician?"
"Used to be, I had a magic shop back in Michigan called the Sorcerer's Apprentice."
He looked at my card for Richards Investigations and Security and then saw my name. His eyes looked back to me, "You're the magician who presented that great floating ball out in Colon at the magic convention aren't you?"
"Yes, were you there?"
"Of course, I had a booth set up in the Abbott's showroom, I got to see the great Marty Van Hought perform and even got his autograph," he said with a big grin.
I thought about my old friend Marty, and how he asked me to get him out to the convention safely, where he was to receive an award for his years in magic.
"Yes, I miss Marty. He was a great friend. What's your name?"
"David Carlos, good to meet you. What can I do for you?"
"I'm here to find out about this Franz Liefer, what kind of a man is he?"
The question took the man by surprise. "He's a hypnotist and he's good. I've watched his show everytime he's performed here. He'll be here tonight, I can get you tickets."
"That would be great, can you get four, two for my friends."
"I can do that. I'll have the tickets in your name." He looked to Penny and his eyes went large. "Excuse me, but aren't you Penny Wickens? Of course you are, you did your TV show from the magic convention and you had said you were married to Jim. Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you also," Penny said.
I spoke, "What can you tell me about Leifer, what kind of person is he?"
"Are you investigating him?"
"Should I be?"
"Well, the guy is strange; he seems to have secrets more than magic or hypnotism. Frankly, he scares me, his mysterious ways and he looks evil, but I guess that's his trademark. I hear he seduces women with his hypnotic ways and turns men into blubbering fools. Again, it's his act, on stage and off. I wish I had his personality, I wouldn't be here selling these tricks to tourists."
I got close to him and said, "Never put down your place in the world, we all need a little magic."
David thanked me and then turned serious, "I am not sure, but I think Leifer is doing something that shouldn't be done."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, there have been some very strange people coming and going before and after his shows to visit him, people who I would think were not nice people, you know the gangster type. Bad men. Crooks even."
"Why do you say that, and how do you figure?"
"They just look shady, and were very secretive about their wanting to talk to Leifer," he said.
"Do you think Leifer can actually hypnotize people on the stage?"
"You know that's a trade secret, but I think it's all a put on. Plus I think he hypnotizes people before his show and gives them a post hypnotic suggestion to fall asleep on stage. I heard, but can't prove, that Kreskin used to do that. The magic in any show is presentation, no matter how you arrive at the end. Magicians, as you know, have to white-lie and cheat to make it look like they are sorcerers. Hypnotists have to work on a person beforehand to get them to do the stupid things they do on stage before an audience. They can't hypnotize everyone in a few seconds."
I thought about that, I would have to ask the widow Finch if her husband had any contact before the show with Leifer.
David continued, "Leifer even looks like he's evil, pointy sideburns down to the middle of his cheeks and a pencil thin mustache and goatee beard. He looks like the devil, if the devil were a man. He even has his hair styled so he looks like that Wolverine guy in the X-Men movies. I like watching him perform, but he's not funny like most hypnotists, although he has a style. You have to see him to understand."
"I guess we will. Thanks for tickets. Will you be here later during the show?"
"Sure, I'm the only employee they have right now. Hard to find good employees."
"Okay then, David, see you later."
I led Penny back downstairs and out to the sidewalk of Las Vegas Boulevard. "We have a few hours to kill, for now. Let's take a stroll on the strip." She agreed and we walked up past the Venetian Hotel then crossed over and back down to the Bellagio to watch the water ballet. We took the crossover bridge and then back up to O'Sheas. We found our car and drove over to Metro PD, I wasn't sure if Lynn and Deacon would be in, but it was a nice day for a drive.
We went into the squad room and everyone went crazy for Penny, I just stood back and watched the people drool over my little celebrity. It's funny, there are celebrities and then there are the big celebrities, like Penny. She was a star of her own Vegas talk show, formerly a nationally known talk show host, and had all the lesser celebrities pawing to get on her local show. She could make or break a person wanting to be a big celebrity with a little exposure on her show.
She looked over to me and shrugged with her cute demure smile, she was so beautiful. I went to Lynn's office and found Deacon.
"Hey big guy, how's it going? Where's Lynn?"
"She'd home in bed, I pulled duty this morning and she didn't. I'm trying to sort out this Finch shooting, why did he do it? Joe Lang says he had absolutely no drugs in his system. Did he have a grudge against someone in the casino? Was he going after someone who was threatening him and he snapped? Why shoot up a casino floor and get killed?"
"That's four questions, two more and you get a prize. I've told you, he was hypnotized into doing it, for why I don't know. Penny and I are going tonight to see the guy who did hypnotize him and maybe talk to him. We have tickets for tonight's show at O'Shea's and two extra if you and Lynn want to go."
"Well, it's a better lead than we had. Lynn wasn't too crazy about the show last night, I don't know if she'd want to go again tonight."
"Well as you say, it's a lead and you have to follow it, I read that in the policeman's manual. You have to follow the lead when it appears."
"What policeman's manual?"
"That's question five; the manual that comes with being a cop. I read it and it says you have to follow the lead."
"I suppose I could go, but Lynn may not want to. Can you give the extra ticket to someone else?"
"Fourth question, you're finished. I can get Mac and Lacey to go if you two can't make it."
"I'll ask Lynn when she gets out of bed. If she won't go I'll find a date."
"You do and Lynn will find you a hole to bury you in."
"True, but I'll ask her, that's all I can do."
"Okay, just let me know early so I can give the tickets away if she's not in the mood."
"You really believe that he was hypnotized into shooting up the place?"
"That's an extra question, I'm keeping track now. Yes, I think it could be a viable reason for the shooting. Something you may have to look into with open eyes. So call me if you two can make it."
"I will, now get Penny out of here so we can get some work done," he said with a smile.
I went back to Penny, took her by the arm, excusing us from everyone and led her out to the car.
"Where are we off to now Sherlock?"
"That's your first question," I said.
She gave me a look and said, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Question two, you had to be there." I grinned as we pulled out of the lot and off to our home.
Penny spoke, "The magic man at O'Shea's said he thought Leifer was up to no good, I hope that this Leifer guy isn't working on some kind of plot to destroy Las Vegas. I'm getting tired of terrorist wanting to destroy our city. And you having to save the day. You don't even get paid to save Vegas, not even given the key to the city. I'm going to have to call the mayor and complain. Or I'll invite him to my show and put him in the hot seat. I'll get you a key."
"I'm not in this for a key or even recognition. I do it because I like to help people and if I can help the city to stay the sinful town it is, so be it."
"Well, you are my hero, even if others don't care." She looked out the window as we drove and I could tell she was smiling.
Ben was throwing questions out to Angelo about his life with the families of the mob. Angelo was delighted to spin the stories even if he embellished just a bit. Tandy was having a great time being in the spotlight and giving autographs to her fans. Angelo was watching one man standing just off the side and he was watching Tandy a bit too hard. Okay, Tandy was a porn actress and would bare all herself on screen, but not in real life. At least Angelo didn't think so and this man was thinking a bit too hard on Tandy.
Ben was still firing questions at Angelo when the big man suddenly sprang from his chair and ran to the man now holding a hunting knife as he moved towards Tandy. Angelo's fist met with the man's face and he went sprawling out in the aisle way, as Angelo went to step on the man's wrist holding the knife. He bent down, took the knife away and pulled the man up with one hand, holding him like a rag doll.
Ben saw what happened and called convention security on his cell phone. Angelo was still holding the man in a headlock when the officers came running up, taking the man from his deathly grip.
People had moved away from the ruckus at the table and Tandy had witnessed the incident. After the man was taken away, she went to Angelo and gave the big man a hug and a kiss on his cheek.
"All in a day's work, Miss Tandy. I do my job," Angelo said.
Everyone went back to the routine they had been doing all day and then the convention ended for the day. Tandy had gathered her belongings and said she was really tired out and her hand hurt from all the signings.
"You can get a good rest tonight, Miss Tandy, I'll be watching you all night." He suddenly went red-faced and said, "I didn't mean I would be watching you, I meant I would watch you, oh, not in that way I'll watch you… Okay, I'll be protecting you tonight."
"I understood you the first time Angelo, my big protector. Let's get out of here, we need to register at the hotel."
They went out of the convention center and found the limo that was going to take them to the Venetian Hotel. The driver was asleep in the driver's seat and Angelo knocked on the glass awaking him. He jumped and unlocked the car, as Angelo opened the door for Tandy. They got into the car and were seated in the comfortable seats as Tandy grabbed a bottle of scotch from the limo bar, pulling the cap and took a good swig from the bottle. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve and handed the bottle to Angelo.
"Thanks, Missy, but I don't indulge in alcohol when on the job. You can enjoy yourself, I'll take care of you."
The car drove out from the convention center and Angelo was watching the roads and was wondering why the car wasn't going towards the hotel. The limo drove up Paradise and then into a parking lot for a row of warehouses, then an overhead door on one building opened and the car went inside. Angelo had his .357 out but the doors were pulled open before Angelo could get a grip on what was happening. Four men in gas masks sprayed the car interior with hoses attached to canisters, and that was the last thing Angelo remembered before he passed out.
We arrived back home and Penny let Willy out of his travel bag, then he tore off to the kitchen, standing in the middle of the room waiting to be fed. Penny obliged him.
"If Deacon doesn't call soon, I'll give the tickets to either Lacey and Mac, or Trapper and Sam. I hate to waste free tickets," I said.
"Do you really think this hypnotist made your client's husband do the crime?"
"Well, I'm almost sure he did, but I've been known to be wrong."
Penny said nothing.
"Don't you have a comment about my being right all the time?"
"What?" I said.
"Give me time, I'm thinking."
"Oh, thank you, I'm glad I have your support.
My cell phone rang and it was Deacon. I answered, "Hey, are you guys going tonight?"
"Sorry, Lynn isn't feeling well, and I want to nurse her, so we'll pass. Sorry again."
"No problem, glad you called so I can get hold of someone else. Tell Lynn to take it easy and see you guys later." We disconnected and I dialed Lacey, she came on after two rings and said, "I'm not working tomorrow, it's Sunday."
"No, Lacey it's not that. I just called to see if you and Mac wanted to go see a show tonight?"
"Oh, well, that's nice, but we have plans. About a dozen teenage girls are coming to spend the night. Jesse is having a midnight vampire party with the latest video of the 'Twilight' movies, and Mac is dressing up like Dracula."
"Old Dracula, Bela Logosi or new Dracula, Frank Langela?"
"Who? I only know the teen vampires, not the old man idols."
"You will regret that, I'll slip quietly into the office and scare the crap out of you, just wait."
"Oh I'm so frightened. I'm going to carry my mace now, so beware."
I hung up on her and called Will Trapper. He came on after a couple rings and said, "What now, Richards?"
I had to laugh, it was like the days back when we first met. I'd call for info at his police precinct and he would protest, but then he would get the info for me. "How would you and Sam like to go see a hypnotist?"
"Tonight? We have nothing better to do. Where and when?"
"He's at O'Sheas and the show starts at 7:30. Interested?"
"Hold on." He covered the phone and I barely heard him talking to Sam. He came back on and said, "Sure we'll go, are the tickets free?"
"Yes they are, cheapskate. Be ready and we'll pick you up at 6:45. Your place or hers?"
"Mine, we're staying here until we decide where our relationship is going."
"Well good luck on that. See you later."
I hung up and turned to Penny standing at the kitchen doorway watching me.
"So have you decided if I'm always right about things?"
She turned into the kitchen and I heard her say, "Are you hungry?"
"You aren't going to answer are you?" I followed her into the room.
"Okay, you are mostly right, but yes you have been known to be wrong. Most times it isn't as it appears.... and if it appears the way it isn't, then apparently you never knew what it was." She turned and kissed my nose, I was now totally confused.
"So, what do you want for dinner?" she asked.
"Nothing, we'll go out to eat."
Around 5:30 we were ready to go and I called Trapper to say we were picking them up early to go eat at Hot-N-Now. Trapper asked if I was treating, I said yes, he agreed.
We drove out to his apartment on the east side around Maryland and Harmon, about two blocks down from where I lived years ago. We pulled into the parking lot and I called Will to say we were waiting. They came out and got into Penny's Ford Escape. I liked the small SUV, but I liked my twenty-two year old Crown Vic better, but we decided on taking Penny's vehicle.
Will said, "So what is so special about this performer?"
"Did you read about the man who shot up the Rio Casino the other day?"
"Sure, they say he was on drugs."
"Nope, Joe Lang didn't find any drugs in his preliminary tox. His widow says this hypnotist we are going to see was responsible for the shootings and his death. I'm in need to find out if the victim was hypnotized into walking into the casino and shooting a few people."
"I remember a case like that back in Michigan, where a woman was hypnotized into believing she was Supergirl and later tried to fly off the roof of Cobo Hall where the show was being presented. The hypnotist was charged with aiding to her death, but got off. His defense made it look like the woman was unstable to begin with."
"Well, it's a touchy subject. Can a person be hypnotized into doing something they morally wouldn't do? But the hypnotist can set up a scenario in a person's mind that they are living out a fantasy that is being lived in real life. Therefore, our dead victim may have thought he was James Bond, after a criminal and shot up the casino, in his quest for that criminal. He believed it was real in his mind."
"Makes some sense. So we're going to investigate this hypnotist?"
"We're going to take a look and see what he is about. I want to talk to him afterwards and find out if he knew the victim."
"You really think he would admit to that?"
"Probably not, but I'd like to see what his reaction is."
We had our meal at Hot-N-Now and then went to the parking structure at O'Sheas. We went up to the showroom and I took everyone to the magic shop display. David was there.
"Hey, Mr. Richards, you made it. I have the tickets held for you at the box office."
"I'll get them shortly, thanks. So is Leifer performing tonight?"
"Oh yes, he's in and ready to go."
I turned to see the line forming for the box office. I told Trapper to wait with the women while I went to get the tickets. He agreed and I went to stand in line.
Twenty minutes later, I came back and handed them their tickets. We went into the theatre and were seated. The building was nice and old looking. The seating formed a semi-circle around the stage and the place was done in lots of reds and velvets.
I turned to Sam and asked, "How's your brother, or should I say sister, doing?"
"Good, I call every day to talk and she is doing great. Just has to heal now, it's a difficult procedure to endure. They take the penis and open it, then remove the cartilage, then turn the skin back into… am I being too descriptive?"
I laughed, "It's alright, just a bit too much info, but thanks."
The theatre lights started to dim, we turned our attention to the stage as the curtains opened. The spotlight went to the right side of the stage as Leifer came walking out to his theme music, a rather weird tune reminding me of a funeral death march.
He bowed deeply at the waist and came up with a strange smile. It was a bit evil looking.
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, tonight I will explore the mind and the soul. I will have my way with a few brave souls who will come up to demonstrate the power of the psyche. I will explore the inner mind and create worlds that my volunteers will believe they are experiencing."
I thought on that comment, could he create worlds that exist in someone's mind making them believe they are doing something they aren't. Like shooting up a room full of people.
"I will require the help of a few willing volunteers to come up and participate in my experiments into the human mind."
I thought he was heavy handed in his presentation, but the audience around me were giving him their full attention. His voice was smooth and I felt he could lull a person into a hypnotic state. I had read numerous articles about hypnosis, there were so many different opinions on the art of hypno-therapy and stage hypnotism, it was a mess of information about the subject. As a magician for many years, I really knew very little about the subject, just what my performer friends told me, and they were all just that, performers, not licensed hypno-therapists. So I would have to take this guy with a grain of salt.
"I need about three volunteers to come up and help with my journey into the psyche." He moved out to the foot of the stage and pointed to three people in the front row, they reluctantly came to the stage. For the next hour and a half he did some amazing things. I wondered if he was really doing the feats he performed or the volunteers where stooges he placed in the audience.
We'd see later. I watched the show with a magician's eye for anything out of the norm, he did well. I would have to check on his background and see if he had any formal training in hypnosis. He had the audience in the palm of his hand and played them well. He wasn't a funny kind of performer as David said, but he had an aura of mystery about him. It played well.
He finished his show and went off stage after thanking his volunteers. We were all getting ready to go out when my cell phone rang, caller ID said private, I answered.
"Jim Richards speaking."
"Mr. Richards, Officer Detricks, Metro PD, we have a man in custody who says he works for you. He says his name is Angelo."
"Thank you for calling, why is he in custody?" I asked.
"Well, he's not exactly in custody, we found him passed out in an alley and he had a .357 magnum in a holster under his arm. We brought him in and his wallet showed he had a permit for the weapon and we called Detective DeAngelo since the permit was signed by him. Deacon told us to call you, so that's what I'm doing."
"Where is the girl he was protecting? Tandy Messner?"
The officer was silent for a moment, "Tandy Messner? There was no woman with him. Do you mean Tandy Messner, the porn star? Was she supposed to be with him?"
"Angelo was assigned to protect her. What did Angelo say?"
"Well, he's still unconscious; he must have been given something pretty strong. It took four of our men to carry him in, he's a big one."
"I'll be down shortly, is he comfortable for now?"
"He's sleeping like a kitten, or I should say Bengal Tiger. Will he be violent when he awakes?"
"I don't think so," I hope not, "Just tell him I'm coming in. Thanks." I hung up and turned to Trapper. "Got a big problem, Angelo was found in an alley, unconscious and Tandy Messner wasn't with him. I'm going in to Metro to find out what happened. Can you check out the hypnotist for me?"
"No problem, go make sure Angelo is all right. Let me know what happened."
"I will." I turned to Penny and told her what happened.
"You're saying that Tandy may be missing?" she said.
"I don't know, let's go find out." We said good-bye to Will and Sam, he said they'd get a cab back home and we left.
We arrived at Metro, it was now almost eleven o'clock and we managed to find Officer Detricks. He led us back to the holding cells where we found Angelo still out.
"Do you have an ammonia capsule?" I asked.
"Sure, we were waiting for you before we tried it. Think it will be safe to awake him? We ran a check on his background and seems he's part of the Traviano mob family in New York."
"Was part of them, he retired and is working for me now. But he's harmless, of course what would you do to wake a sleeping pit bull?"
"I'd stand back and get ready to run," he said with a big grin.
"Exactly right. Penny, stay out here. I'll take the chance he'll be alright." I went in and stood back from him, then broke the capsule holding it out arms length to his nose. I watched for any sign of life, then saw a flutter from his eyelids. He started to stir and I went back out of the cell quickly.
Angelo stirred more and then jumped up shakily. He looked around and his eyes went big, he cleared his throat but it sounded more like a lion's roar. Then he saw me standing by the cell door. He came charging over and stopped short of me, looking in a panic now.
"Mr. R. where's Tandy?" he growled.
"I was hoping you could tell us. What happened to you?"
His legs seemed to go rubbery and he went back to the cot in the cell and sat. He shook his head, "Damn it, someone's got her! We were gassed in the back of the limo, that's all I remember."
"Do you remember where this happened?"
"I don't know the streets but I can take us back there. It was a warehouse that we drove into when these guys pulled the doors and gassed us."
I turned to the Detricks, "We need to take Angelo and find that warehouse. It sounds like a kidnapping."
Detricks went out of the cell saying he'd get a detective. Angelo looked up to me and said, "I screwed up Mr. R., I let her get taken. Damn it!"
"Angelo, there was not much you could do; this was well planned by the sound of it. You did all you could. Now let's get over there and find her." I helped him to stand, he was still shaky but he rose up and took a big breath, then said, "We'll get her back, or I'll make sure someone suffers for it."
I felt a chill by the way he said it, with thoughts of the mob storming into Vegas tearing the city apart. We went out and I saw Detective Warren coming down the hallway with Detricks.
Steve filled me in," he said referring to Detricks. "Tandy Messner has been kidnapped?"
"Looks that way, Angelo knows the direction the limo took so we should go back to where they started from."
"I've called for a couple of cars to follow; do you want to take him in your car?"
"Sure, I'll keep you on my cell phone so we can coordinate."
Warren agreed and we went out to the cars. Penny sat in the back with Angelo up front, as I drove over to the convention center and then we sat as the two patrol cars pulled in alongside of us. I rolled my window down and called to Warren that we were going to recreate the drive, so follow close. I drove out going the directions Angelo was giving me.
We went up Paradise Road for a bit when Angelo became excited, "That's the place! Over there!" I saw the row of buildings and pulled in followed by the cop cars. He pointed out the overhead door where they drove the limo into. We got out and went to a smaller service door, followed by the police and Warren. The door was locked and Warren said it would take a while to get a warrant this late.
Angelo looked to him and said, "You police have to do it by da book. I ain't a cop." He charged the door, which gave way to his mass and busted open. "There, now ya got probable cause." He grinned and turned to go in, we followed.
The building was empty, but the limo was still sitting in the middle of the room. Warren and I checked inside and found nothing. Even Tandy's baggage was missing. Angelo was storming around the building looking in rooms, calling Tandy's name. I knew it wouldn't do any good, but it was what Angelo wanted to do, so I didn't say anything.
We all met back out in the big room by the limo, "Does this building have surveillance cameras outside?" I asked.
Warren told one of the officers to go check the building to see. He went out and we waited. He came back a few minutes later and said there were two cameras on the building pointing to this section of the warehouses. Warren said to call back to the precinct and get the building owner on the phone and find out where the camera feed was going to. The officer left again to go make his call. Warren phoned for CSI to come in to check the car. Maybe they'd get some prints.
Since we had nothing else to go on, we just waited.
Trapper and Sam managed to get Leifer to agree to come and talk. The hypnotist was just finishing autographing his headshots; they were more professional than the last hypnotist Trapper saw.
Leifer came over to where Trapper was standing and said, "You wanted to talk to me? I can give you a few minutes but I have things to do."
Trapper showed Leifer is ID and said, "I'm part of an investigation of Mike Finch, he was killed in a shootout at the Rio the other day and his wife thinks hypnotism had something to do with it. Can you give me some advice as to whether it could happen that he was hypnotized and committed the shootings?"
"I've heard about the incident, but I didn't hear that the police suspect hypnotism was involved."
"It's not something that they publicized, may hurt your business if they did, wouldn't it?"
"Well, it may make people a little skeptical about being on stage with me, yes, it could hurt business."
"Do you think, as an expert, if this is possible that Finch could have been hypnotized into shooting up the casino?"
"I highly doubt it, although it has been said that a subject could be led to believe that he is in a situation that is fabricated and act out something that would normally be repugnant to his or her nature."
"You'd be a good politician, now can you give me the layman's explanation?"
"You can't make someone do something that is against their moral nature, you can't tell someone under hypnosis to shoot someone, but you could tell that man that he is shooting at a target. It could be done, by someone capable of such expert hypnotism. I'm capable of doing this, but would never."
"What's your background in this?"
"I've studied under some of the best hypno-therapists and stage hypnotists for many years before I ventured into doing my own shows. It is something not taken lightly, even for an audience."
"Did you know that you were the hypnotist that had Finch on your stage six nights ago and hypnotized him into thinking he was James Bond?"
"Yes, I do the James Bond bit, with some men who look like they would enjoy being the dashing hero, but I don't tell them to go shoot up a casino. It's not my style."
"It's not a matter of style, Mr. Leifer, it's a matter of murder."
Leifer didn't smile he just said he had things to do and walked away.
Trapper turned to Sam and said, "I think I may have hit a nerve."
About twenty minutes later the owner of the warehouse units came in and opened the office to take us to the room where the camera surveillance recording equipment was. He ran the tapes back to when the limo drove into the unit and played it from there. We watched and about ten minutes later, a dark blue panel van pulled out through the bay door after they opened it. The Van drove off, and then a Chevy SUV drove out. There was one man who closed the overhead door and then he went off to a car parked next to the building. The back of the car was exposed to the camera.
"Greg, can you get a make on the plate from that car?" I asked.
Warren leaned close but couldn't read it, "I'll have someone from CSI take it in for enhancement. Sir, we need this tape." The building owner pulled the tape and handed it to Warren; he went out with it.
I turned to Penny and Angelo, "We will find her, Angelo, we will."
He looked sad, yet I could see the anger seething in him. I hoped we found her, I didn't know the capabilities of this man, what would he do. "Let's get out of here and go see what CSI has found."
We went back to the unit where Tandy was taken and I saw the CSI supervisor and went to him. Penny was holding Angelo's arm giving him her support, she knew he was hurting also.
"Angelo, don't take this personally, Jim has had his own problems with finding the bad guys but he knows that things can turn out good, if you go into it with an open mind and think clearly. Don't let your anger take control; we need to get her back, so let's take care of it." She hugged the big man and he held her briefly with a tenderness that she hadn't expected.
I stood by Larry Wayne, the shift supervisor of CSI and asked, "What's the outlook?"
"Well, we got a good number of prints and the surveillance tape should give us a name from the plates, the tape is being processed. Was this really Tandy Messner, the porn actress, who was taken?"
"Yep, she was in town for the Adult Film Expo and Awards. Angelo was assigned to protect her, but he was overtaken by these people. I want her back and someone to pay for it."
"Well, give us a little time, we are a bit snowed under with other cases, it's priorities that take precedence. Why don't you call in the FBI, they handle kidnapping cases and I'm sure they would push this through since it's Tandy," he said with a grin.
I thought of Earl Daws and said, "Yeah, that's an option. Thanks Larry. Let me know what you find."
"Is Carter or Deacon going to be in this?"
"I don't know, Lynn is ill and Deacon hasn't called yet. But they're homicide and I hope it doesn't come down to murder. Thanks."
I went back to Penny and Angelo, "Angelo, who was in charge of Tandy at the convention center?"
"A guy called Ben Silver, he was the man who owned da video company Tandy worked for. Should we talk to him?" Angelo asked.
"He may know something, for all we know he may have set up the kidnapping, but we won't know unless we talk to him. Shall we go find him?"
"He told me he was staying in da same hotel Tandy was, the Venetian."
"Good, we'll go there and start." I told Warren that we were leaving and to call me if they find something. We went back to the car and drove over to the Venetian. We went to the front desk and I asked for Ben Silver's room. They wouldn't give out his room number but said I could use a house phone and they would connect me to his room. I picked up the phone as the girl behind the counter did a few punches on her keyboard and I heard the ringing of the phone. It rang for a good ten times before I gave up.
"Well, he's either not in or ignoring the phone. I don't know what room he's in to go find him."
Angelo smiled and said to hold on, walked off the side of the lobby and then he pulled his cell phone. I could see he was talking to someone, I hoped he wasn't calling his leg breakers in. He came back and said, "We wait a couple minutes and then we can go see Ben."
About ten minutes of standing in the lobby talking about Angelo's day at the convention center, Angelo's phone rang and he answered. He grinned and hung up. "We got ta go da the fifth floor." He turned and went towards the elevators, we followed, it was his show now.
We got off on the fifth floor and there was a room maid standing down the hall. Angelo went towards her, with us in tow. She pointed to a door and pulled her master door card inserting it into the door lock; it opened. Angelo thanked her and she went off, as Angelo went into the room.
"Shouldn't we have a warrant or something?" Penny whispered.
"We aren't the police my dear. This is now called breaking and entering, although the maid did let us in. So we aren't breaking, just entering. Half a crime." I grinned at her and went into the room. It was a mess, I couldn't say if it was searched by someone or Ben was just a messy person.
Angelo went to all the rooms searching for either Ben or Tandy. I didn't think they would have brought Tandy here, they'd have to bring her up in a box otherwise it would look a bit odd to carry a gagged unconscious woman to the room.
"She ain't here," Angelo said when he came to us, "Neither is Ben, do ya think he was involved?"
"He could be just out enjoying Vegas and not knowing Tandy is even missing," I said.
We heard the entrance door open and in walked Ben Silver, I presumed. Angelo went to him and stopped just shy of grabbing the man.
"Do you know where Tandy is?" Angelo bellowed.
Ben gave us a shocked look and said, "I haven't seen Tandy since she left with you at the convention center."
I came forward and gently pulled Angelo back and stepped up to the man. "I'm Jim Richards and I'm the owner of the firm for investigating and security, Angelo's employer. It seems that Tandy was kidnapped by unknown people and we are trying to find her."
"I don't know where she could be, how did you get into my room?" he asked.
"You really don't want to know, I understand from Angelo that you have a fascination for the mob? Some questions are best left unanswered." He nodded as if he understood. "Sorry to intrude on you but we needed to know if you knew about this. Have you heard anything from the kidnappers, since you were her employer?"
"No, I just got back. I was out scouting the scenery for future porn stars."
"You were checking the hookers in other words. Do you need new women for your films? Maybe Tandy's fame was fading?"
"Hell no, Tandy is a star, just see how many people flocked to our booth today to know she was a goddess of porn. I don't want to lose her, she's my paycheck."
"Is that how you think of her, your paycheck?"
"I didn't mean it like that; I meant she was so popular that I was making money from her videos. I care for Tandy and if she's missing I'll do anything to get her back. I'll hire you to find her."
"I'm going to find her and the creeps who took her, and then I'll turn them over to Angelo and his people for punishment." I wasn't serious, he didn't know that, but from what Angelo told me in the hotel lobby about Ben, I knew he had a reverence for the mob.
"Mr. Richards, I don't know anything about this, I want Tandy back, please find her."
"Okay, now tell me why you think someone would kidnap her."
"Well, she is worth a good deal of money for her work. Maybe they are going to ask for a ransom."
"I can see someone like Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock being kidnapped, they are worth a lot more than a porn star."
"Mr. Richards, the porn industry is a billion dollar business, okay, I don't make billions, but Tandy's potential is huge. She's only been in the business for a year and a half and look at her popularity. She's going places, and not just in the porn industry. There have been feelers from legit film companies for her to star in a major film. Good people want her, she's a natural actress."
I looked to Penny and said, "Well, this is something to think about." I turned back to Ben and said, "I certainly hope this is not a publicity stunt, to get more attention for your star. We'll find her, count on it."
I handed him my card and said to call me immediately if he hears from the kidnappers. I nodded to Penny and Angelo and we left Ben standing in the room.
In the elevator I said, "I'm not sure about that man, something about him annoys me. But I could be wrong."
Penny smiled and said, "But Sweetie, you've never been wrong have you?"
I just gave her a look as she grinned.
We were feeling the effects of the long day, I could see Angelo was fading, maybe from the gassing he took earlier. I drove back to the house; everyone was silent thinking our own thoughts. We got back to our home and I stopped the car, letting Penny and Angelo out before putting the car in the garage.
Angelo went off to the guesthouse and Penny went in the front door, I met her as I came out the garage door to the kitchen. She was feeding Willy.
"So where do we go now?" Penny asked.
"Nowhere I can say, I'll call Warren and see what he has, but Warren is in homicide so the kidnapping may be handed over to someone else. We'll see. I need to call Trapper and see what he came up with on the hypnotist. I have to get back on that case before the trail gets cold," I said.
"I'm going for a swim, to relax. Now you've got two mysteries to work on, you must be excited," Penny said with a touch of sarcasm.
"I'm going to hand the kidnapping over to Will, he and Angelo can follow up on it, I need to get on the Finch case and see what I can find out about this Leifer guy. I'll be in my den if you need me."
"Good, you can watch me swim from there. I may go topless," Penny said with a laugh.
"Be careful that Angelo doesn't walk around the back and see you."
"I didn't think about that, I'll have to set down some ground rules for him. I can't expect to be careful all the time." She turned and went off to change; I went to my den and sat at my desk. I pulled my cell phone and dialed Trapper. He came on after two rings.
"Hey, what happened with Tandy, did you find her?" He asked as soon as he answered.
"No, we got nothing from the abduction scene so far, forensics is working on some prints and a license plate number. I have to call Warren to see what he has. What did you get from the hypnotist?"
"Not much, but my gut instinct is he may know more than he's telling. How do you plan to handle the two cases? Want me to take one?" Trapper offered, relieving me from having to ask.
"I'd really appreciate it if you would. Can you take the kidnapping of the porn star and have Angelo along with you?"
"I'd be happy to; we have to get back our little porn star don't we. So tell me what you have so far."
I told him everything I knew about the evening at the warehouse, including Ben's statements from his hotel room. I told him to get with Warren and find out who may have the case now. He said he would and we finished the call.
I sat back in my chair and thought about what I would do next. I had to get hold of Joe Lang and see what the autopsy revealed on Finch, then get hold of Lynn and Deacon to see what they had from forensics on the incident at the casino. This was going to be a busy couple of days I figured.
I watched Penny swimming around from out of my den window, then went through the door to the pool. It was nice having a door from my den going out to the backyard, saved time from having to walk back through the house. I came up to the pool, sat on one of the plastic chairs and just watched her until I started to drift off to sleep.
I was suddenly being rousted by Penny as she stood dripping wet in front of me. "Hey, I could have let you sleep out here for the night, but I wouldn't be that cruel," she laughed and then went in the house.
I stood carefully, for my body was cramping from the position I was in and made my way to our bedroom, undressed and fell asleep as soon as I hit the sheets.
I was at my office early the next morning so I could make a few calls to continue to track down the facts on Finch's case. Lacey had greeted me at the back door where she was getting some file folders out of the storeroom and the cowbell attached to the door let her know I had entered.
"Good morning," Lacey offered.
"I hope so; I'm not feeling real well this morning, slept poorly."
"Well, you have a visitor in your office." She smiled and walked up the hallway to the front. I went to my office and found a woman sitting in my client chair. It was the well-built Mrs. Finch. I didn't need this to start my day.
"Good morning, you're here early and I have nothing to tell you so far," I said.
"I didn't figure you would, but I came by to say that my husband's associate in his business called me last night to express his condolences and offer to help with anything I needed. It was nice of him but I never liked the man. My husband went to college with him and they started the firm together two years ago. Mike and his friend, Dan Clark, built up the business from nothing to handling a good number of wealthy clients. My husband did most the stock buying and selling and Dan took care of the finances for the business. I'm having some thoughts that Dan may have been doing more than handling the finances. He said that he'd take care of the business, and I didn't have to bother with any details. He said he would buy out my husband's interest in the business, and see that I was paid well for it. I think he wanted me to keep out of it by the way he talked."
I thought on that, could the partner be in on the plot to have Finch killed? Maybe he wanted Finch out of the picture. "You suspect anything about this man being in on your husband's death?"
"Anything at this point is possible. Just the fact that my husband walked into the casino and started shooting people is incomprehensible. My husband would have no reason to do so without being coerced into it. No reason at all. I just wanted to let you know of my call from him, may help you."
"Yes, it may be a good lead, I'll check into it. Does this person have regular hours at the business?"
"He does, at least I think he does. My husband used to go in at eight a.m. and not come home till after six. I hope he was in his office all day. I never followed him to find out. That's what private investigators are for," she said with a smile that would light the Luxor spotlight. I had to stop that, Penny was probably picking up on my thoughts as I had them.
"Yes, I'll just go and check then, thank you again for giving me this information, anything else you can think of, please just call, no sense in you having to drive all the way here." Not that I minded, oops, there I go again.
"No problem at all, Mr. Richards, or may I call you Jim?"
Uh, oh. "Sure you may call me anything you like, I mean that would be fine." I stood quickly hoping to get her out of my office. She stood slowly and deliberately, smoothing out the tight red dress she barely had on. I glanced over to Penny's bikini picture and then led Mrs. Finch out.
In the lobby she took my hand again and held it a bit too long. I was wondering if this woman was so devoted to her husband, why did I get a feeling that she was coming on to me. "Thank you again, Jim," she said with a wink, then went out the front door.
I looked to Lacey as she was filing, she didn't even look to me and said, "You'll go to hell for what you're thinking."
"Mind your business and just file," I said and went back to my office just as my desk phone rang. It was Deacon.
"Hey macho man, what's up?" I said.
"I got a call from Greg Warren, he said that they got a make on the plates from the car in the video and was trying to call you. Is your cell phone turned off again?"
I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and it was off. Damn, why was this happening, did I shut it off in my sleep?
"Yeah, it's off, don't ask why, I don't know. How's Lynn feeling?"
"Worse, she has the flu, so we both took some time off work so I can nurse her back to health. Warren is going to head up the investigation on Finch, crimes against persons division is fighting over who heads up the Messner kidnapping. Captain Weber wants to set up a special task force to investigate; he'll probably take it on himself, just to get back the porn queen. But Warren has all the info on what they have so far."
"Thanks for that. I'm having Trapper take the kidnapping case from our end, since it was my employee involved. So he's going to have to deal with the bureaucracy of who takes what. I'll call Warren on the Finch case. Tell Lynn to get well, and don't get sick yourself." We finished and disconnected.
I sat back and looked to Penny's bikini picture, I had to get Mrs. Finch out of my head or loose it.
Continued in the book...
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