The Vegas Showgirl Murders

By Bob Moats


Attention: the chapters below are the last to be posted here in the preview. The rest of the chapters will be available in the book. If you'd like to know when the book is available for sale, watch the main page of classmatemurders.com or sign up on the update list on the bottom of that front page and I'll keep you informed.
Thank you, Bob Moats



Warning! There is a spoiler in this preview. If you haven't read the complete book "The Classmate Murders" avoid the second sentence in the first chapter. The spoiler is in Italics and blue color.


  Chapter One
-------------

It took about a month for Penny to finally get past the terror of the classmate murders, she hurt deeply. The evil half-siblings, Waters and Morgan, were both dead and gone. I stayed by Penny everyday, nursing her back to normalcy. Buck would visit us at her home a couple times a week, to see how she was doing, talking to her about everything else, distracting from the original subject. Deacon wanted to come by, but was still recovering from numerous surgeries to replace his hip and joints, and would be in therapy for a while. Penny and I did visit Deacon as often as his schedule allowed, since Penny owed her life to him as much as the rest of us. After we would visit Deacon, Penny would get a little depressed, seeing Deacon in such a way. I would remind her he was a cop, they can get hurt in any number of ways and they accept it. It helped a little, but she needed to heal.

I finally convinced Penny to go back to the studio and do her show again. It was time for her to get back into the good life she had before the bad. It would also help to take her mind off of things best let go.

The first day we rolled into the studio she was nervous, but her groupies were there to make her beautiful, the crew welcomed her back with a big cake and the audience love was there. Her faithful viewers wrote in supporting letters, after hearing of her ordeal, and her biker fan club came to her first show and cheered her on. Luther gave her a big bouquet of flowers from the gang; Penny broke down on camera and cried. She was going to be all right.

When the story broke about the murders to the news wires and networks, we had received contact from a few production companies, who felt it might make a good cable movie. Buck wanted Hulk Hogan to play him. Penny just thought we were all nuts, but added she'd like to see Jaclyn Smith play her part. I wanted to play myself, everyone just laughed.

My mother was reading the story I was starting to write, about the murders. I decided to make a book out of it, so I sat down and started banging it out on my laptop, while it was fresh. She was glad I didn't tell her about the killers when it was happening. My brother had agreed to take over my duties at our parent's house, and I sort of moved in with Penny. Sort of, meaning it wasn't a permanent move, yet, because Penny and I wanted to take it slow. I was there to take care of her at first, and then it just felt comfortable.

Newly promoted from homicide Sergeant to Lieutenant, Trapper also helped me to enroll in a course at the local community college towards getting a P.I. license. I just had to do it. He gave me his blessing, and also helped get me a CCW permit. He and I spent a good number of days in the shooting range, at his precinct, and he had to admit I was a good shooter. I couldn't carry a gun yet, till I had finished the course, which were his conditions. Penny thought I was living out some adolescent fantasy, a hero worship for Magnum, P.I. sort of thing. I just wanted this before I died of old age. Which I felt I was getting closer to everyday.

One afternoon Penny came home all excited. She told me that there was interest in putting her show into syndication nation wide. Her studio had been working towards it, since she was now known across the country for the ordeal we went through, and they had reserved a booth at the big NABP convention in Las Vegas. I had lived in Las Vegas for about sixteen months back in 2003, and I knew a bit about the NABP, National Association of Broadcast Programming, conventions. Stations across the country go to promote their shows to the networks, and the networks try to promote their shows, and to sign up stations to become affiliates. That was a simplification, because it is more than just broadcasting, the NABP Show is attended by leading media, entertainment and communications professionals to share an interest for the next generation of video and audio, from television, radios and computers to phones, the big screen and beyond. A real potpourri of what we see and hear in our daily lives, and the effect on us.

Penny said they were sending her, and me, out to Vegas, all expenses paid to work and promote her show. She said I was going along to protect her from harm. She laughed, I was offended. We had about four months to get her ready for the big event, and it would give me time to finish my course. She said that she would start to get more important guests on her show now, to add some flair to promote it. In the past she would occasionally book big name stars when they came into Detroit, but now the stars wanted to get on her show to meet Penny. I hoped all the hoopla over the classmate murders didn't die out before we went to Vegas, stories come and go, and are soon forgotten.

Buck was now starting to bring Deacon with him on his weekly visits to Penny and me. Deacon was finally released from the hospital, but still doing therapy for his hip, and had a cane to walk with for now. He bought a heavy, black cane with a serpent's head on the top, it suited him. What he didn't tell anyone, but me, it was a sword cane, twist and pull the handle and out came a long, thin pointy blade.

"Vegas, Baby!" Buck yelled out when he heard our news.

I grinned and said, "Don't get too excited, you weren't invited." Buck looked crushed.

Penny came in as I was saying that, and offered, "Well, Buck, we're being flown out on the corporate jet, so if you wanted to go, it would be a free ride. But you'd have to find a place to stay out there; I'm not sharing my luxury room at the MGM Grand with anyone but Jim."

Deacon, who was sitting on Penny's couch, spoke up, "Well, if I can get the same offer for the flight out, Buck and I could stay at my sister's house, she lives in Las Vegas. I'd like to visit her." Buck's eyes went wide, and sat there with that walrus smile of his.

Penny smiled, "Deacon, the plane has a weight limit," she giggled.

"You know, I'm getting a little tired of all the big guy jokes. Besides, I'm not big, you're just all puny."

"OK, Deacon, you've earned our respect. We will no longer make jokes at your expense. OK, King Kong?" I joked.

He grabbed a book off the couch and threw it at me, it missed and came crashing down next to the sleeping cat, startling it out of its dreams. The cat snarled and ran off.

"Oh good, I'm not the only one who annoys cats now." I laughed.

Penny stepped in before we started fighting, "Deacon, I'll check with the studio and see, but I'm sure you and Buck could hitch a ride."

Buck whooped, and said, "Sin City, here we come!" he paused, "Deacon, what's your sister look like?"

"Just stay away from her. Besides she's an amazon and a showgirl." Deacon warned.

"Showgirl? Does she do the nude shows?" Buck's mouth was hanging open.

"No, and I'd strangle her if she did," he growled.

"Murder doesn't become you, Deacon," I said, and then whispered something to Penny. She nodded.

"Buck, can you help me get some luggage out of my garage and let the kids sit here and fight?" she asked.

"I'd be glad to." He got up and followed Penny out.

I moved over, next to Deacon on the couch. I sat for a minute, not really knowing what to say, I wasn't a very open person. I finally said, "Deacon, I asked Penny to get Buck out of here for a while, since I wanted to talk to you. I just wanted to say I really appreciate what you did for Penny, jumping in front of that bullet. I honestly know I would have lost it, if I had lost her. You saved me, as well as Penny. I just wanted to say a big thank you."

Deacon was quiet for a bit, and then he just said, "My pleasure. I would have missed both of you." Then he smiled.

Changing the subject, "So, your sister lives in Vegas?" I asked.

"Yep, about ten years now. She works at the Tropicana, in one of the shows."

"Deacon, I lived in Vegas for about a year and a half, the Tropicana showgirls do go topless." I confessed.

Deacon smiled and said, "I know, I just didn't want Buck to know. He'd hound me for details until we got there."

We both laughed. I continued, "I really miss being out there. I came back due to a bit of homesickness and my Dad's health. I really wished I had stayed though."

"What took you out there?" Deacon wondered.

"I was offered a job, for one of the shows. I lasted about six months, got fed up with the guy I worked for and quit. I'll tell you more about it sometime. I have a low threshold for arrogance, couldn't stand the guy after I got to know him. Then I worked there for one of the chain magic shops until I moved back here."

"Magic shops? You did magic?" he inquired.

"Yeah, I've been doing shows for local parties and such, for over forty years, I stopped after getting back here." I said wistfully.

"I love magic; you'll have to teach me a few tricks." Deacon stated, like a small child.

"You got it, big guy."

Penny and Buck came back in the living room carrying six suitcases. They plopped them in the middle of the room, I looked at them and said, "Just how long are we going to be out there?"

"A woman needs many changes of clothing, just in case," she remarked.

"Don't forget to pack warm clothing." I joked, remembering the daily 100 plus degrees it got in Vegas. I just didn't want to say that in April, when the convention was, it was sometimes cool.

"Smart ass," she retorted, knowing how hot it gets there. "I'm filling one suitcase with tank tops and short shorts." Then she stuck her tongue out at me.

Deacon said, "Hey, Buck, did you know Jimmy was a magician?"

Buck smiled, "Yeah, he told me all about it when we used to work together."

Penny stopped, looking like her brain was actively engaged, and finally said, "That's right, you did magic shows back in classes in school. I remember seeing a couple now, and I was impressed. Can you do something right now?"

I smirked, "I can make your bra disappear."

She grinned, "I don't have a bra on."

"See it worked." I chuckled.

"Still a smart ass," she tsked, and went off towards the bed room carrying two suitcases.

"She holds up nice for not wearing a bra, eh?" I admired.

Buck looked towards Deacon and said, "I want to know more about your sister, got a picture of her in your wallet?"

"Yes, I do, but I'm not letting you drool all over it," he answered.

I asked, "Can I see it?"

Deacon took his wallet out and after opening it, showed it to me. Buck ran around the back of the couch and looked over my shoulder. It was of a very attractive woman in one of those fancy feathered showgirl outfits.

"Wow, she's a looker!" Buck was just about drooling.

Penny came back in the room and I said to come look at Deacon's sister. She studied the picture for a couple seconds.

"Hmm... I better not find you chasing after her now," she threatened.

"Baby, I only have eyes for you," I grinned.

"It's not your eyes I'm concerned about," she snapped, then smiled, "You can look all you want, just keep other body parts away."

Deacon said not to worry, he'd watch out for his sister while we're there.

After a while, Buck and Deacon left, Penny and I just sat on the couch and relaxed. I put my arm around her and she tucked into me.

"Did you have your talk with Deacon?" she asked.

"I did, I told him I was really thankful he saved your life. I wouldn't have been able to live if you were killed." I kissed her cheek.

"Yeah, sure, you'd be snuggling up to Deacon's sister about now," she chuckled.

"Not really, I'm allergic to feathers. Besides I think Buck may have a crush on her, the way he kept bugging Deacon for more info. I think Deacon may regret telling him about her." I decided to change the subject, "I haven't told you much about when I lived in Vegas. You Interested?"

She said she was.

"Well, back in 2003, I got an email from a girl I knew from my first marriage. Her brother was a teen when I first met him; he was attempting to become a stand-up comic, more of a prop comic, kind of like Carrot top. He would occasionally help me when I did shows and needed extra performers. He eventually toured around the country, going to comedy clubs and polishing his act. Then he finally started working in Vegas, and got a contract to work one of the big casinos. His production manager was leaving to go to Chicago, and he needed help, his sister mentioned me, so he wrote and asked if I was interested. I said I was, and went out to look it over, and took the job. It was good at first, but I found out too many things about him I didn't like. I didn't expect a saint, but I didn't expect the crap he did. He was abusive to the people who worked for him and I finally had enough when he exploded over something I had no control over, and I quit." I was quiet for a minute thinking about the memory.

"Did you come back to Michigan then?" Penny asked.

"No, I stayed. My son was living with me at the time; he had a job, so we had some income. I finally found an ad in the classifieds for a magician to work at a chain of magic stores located in various casino shopping centers. So, I stood out in front of the store doing my magic to attract people to come in. I was a pitch man, as they call it. It was fun, but it was work. Unfortunately, my son's job went bust, so trying to struggle on my little income and the fact we both were a little homesick, we decided to come back. Plus, every Sunday when I called my Mom, she would tell me how poorly Dad was doing, I didn't want to be 2000 miles away if something happened to him. So, we came back."

Penny detected a bit of sadness in my voice, "You'd rather be back there?"

"Oh, I miss it. Yes, I'd like to be back there. Maybe when I retire." I smiled.

"Retire? You're starting a new career as a private investigator, which I think is silly but I support you, and you're a year and a half away from social security. You better move fast before retiring to Las Vegas," she grinned. "What is it about Vegas that would make you go back?"

"After I moved back to Michigan and had the chance to compare between the two places, I found that in Vegas I loved the sunshine; the heat; walking down the Strip and seeing happy people; being in a Disneyland for adults; the sounds of the casinos; driving up the Strip amazed at all the lights; walking around Fremont Street and watching the two block long video playing over head; having just about any kind of store available for anything you could ever want from all over the world; the diversity of people both living there and visiting; the place is always changing, something new everyday, something new to see; and a dream fulfilled, I got to perform magic in Las Vegas, about a 1000 plus shows... well, I could go on but we have so little time."

 We both were quiet for a bit, then I said, "I think what really got to my soul, one night, I was standing at the parking lot edge of an office complex, just off from the desert. I was looking out at the miles of flat land, tumble weed and cactus, seeing the Vegas strip in the distance. All the casinos brightly lit like a carnival. I watched the light beam from the Luxor pyramid blasting up to the heavens, and feeling the warm, dry air and the total stillness surrounding me. It was an experience I can't shake. I felt one with heaven."

"Maybe I could do my show from Vegas," she said quietly.

"Well, that's all down the road. We need to get you ready for your big week. I just know your show will go nationwide." I said and got up, nearly tripping over the luggage still in the middle of the floor. "Are these things going to be here for the next few months?"

"No, I think we can put them in the spare room for now, I can take my time packing them." We stood and started to pick them up.

"Yeah, don't forget the warm clothes," I kidded. She whacked me with a small suitcase.

*

  Chapter Two
-------------

Penny was wearing a sexy, short cocktail dress and I was in a new suit that Penny bought me as a graduation gift. We were all ready to head out to my big event; I was graduating from P.I. school, as I called it. Buck and Deacon were going to meet us at the community college meeting hall where the small ceremony would be held. It was not a big thing, but the college liked to make their student feel like they were doing something important. We drove there and luckily found a parking space close to the front. Buck and Deacon were standing out front of the building with Trapper. I said my hellos to everyone and we went in. The ceremony was brief but nice; Penny was snapping pictures with my Fujifilm digital camera. After it was over, we all stood together as my instructor took a couple of pictures for me. Trapper pulled me aside.

"Jim, you have a way of growing on people and I got to like you. Plus, the good words you put in with the chief of police helped me get my promotion. That's why I helped you out with all this. I think you have a good head for this business, and you're snoopy," he laughed, and held out the small package he was carrying, "This is for you, you earned it."

I opened up the box and found a .40 caliber Glock handgun. I was overwhelmed. "Can I shoot someone with it, to try it out?"

Trapper looked over to Buck and said, "Yeah, I know someone you can start with." We both laughed. Trapper said the gun needed registering in my name, so I had to come down to the precinct to take care of it.

We went back to the gang and I showed Buck and Deacon the Glock, they both just ogled it. Penny said that I'd probably just shoot myself with it, and kissed me. Trapper said we now had to get me registered and he would help me with the P.I. licensing process on Monday.

We all went to the Cloverleaf restaurant to get some pizza and beers, and enjoy the evening. Buck had his usual Diet sprite and was having a good conversation with Trapper about their escapades. Penny held my hand tightly as if I would run away, which I wouldn't with her by my side. We all talked about going to Vegas next month, and all the sights I'd take them to. Buck just wanted to go to a Vegas strip club, the best sights he would see. I told Buck he'd better have a good amount of cash to afford those sights. We had our fill and said our good nights; Penny was my designated driver as she knew I'd be celebrating. We got home and Penny brought out a bottle of champagne she had hidden, and we toasted to my night. Then we headed towards the bedroom, she said in my ear, "I've always dreamed of hitting the sheets with a private dick." I just looked at her and said, "Well, this private eye is going to become a private dick just for you." In all, it was a great night.

One month later, we were scurrying around getting things ready for the trip next week. Time flies when you have to be ready for anything. I was all licensed as a P.I. and Penny bought me a box of engraved business cards saying I was open for business. I figured I would work on starting my business after we got back from Vegas; I wanted to take time to really make a go of it. Penny took me to the couch and we sat. She handed me an envelope and told me to open it. I found a check for a large amount of money from her station.

"What's this for?"

"I told the station that I was a big investment now and I needed protection, so I said I hired a P.I. to be my bodyguard and they agreed. That's the advanced fee I told them you were worth." She glowed.

I kissed her cheek and said we'd have to copy this check and frame it, my first paying job.

At the last minute, we were still trying to get ready. Penny had five of the suitcases filled with her stuff, I got the last one. I travel light. Trapper came by to instruct me on getting my gun through airport security and what to do when I got to Vegas, to let the police know I had it, and that I was a P.I. and a bodyguard for Penny. It was always a good gesture to inform the local police as to my intentions, and not be a surprise to them. Besides, Vegas had their share of armed bodyguards, so they tend to be tolerant of it.

Trapper told me, "You have any problems out there, call me. I have connections."

"How'd you manage that?" I asked.

"I was born in Henderson, just below Vegas, well, you already know that. My Dad was a cop. My parents moved to North Las Vegas when I was in my teens, I went to Bishop Gorman High, and was a rookie for Metro police for about two years, I was a bicycle cop on the strip. I still have friends. I'll give you a list of people to contact once you're out there."

I was amazed, "Trapper, you never mentioned this before, why now?"

"Wanted to keep it on a low level till you were ready to go. Otherwise you would probably bug me about it." He smiled.

"Thanks, I appreciate that. How'd you end up here in Michigan?"  

"My Dad died when I was in Police Academy, my Mom remarried to a guy from Mt. Clemens and they moved here. After a while I had enough of the nut jobs on the strip so found a position with the Clinton Township police. Mom still lives here, with husband number two."  

"Wow, great, I'll have to throw your name around when I'm out there." I grinned.

"Yeah, just use my list to throw my name; some cops out there weren't my best of friends. If you know what I mean."

"I think I do." Since I knew how friendly Trapper could be.

Penny came up and asked if Buck was still going to bring his van for our trip to Detroit City Airport. I said that was the plan. Trapper gave Penny a friendly hug and said he had to go back to work.

He looked at me and said, "Crime won't be the same around here without you, it'll probably be less." He smiled then departed without saying good-bye. He did that a lot.

"OK, I have a list of what we have to do." She handed me the list and said, "Take care of it." She smiled and went back into the house.

The next morning was beautiful, an unusual occurrence for Michigan. Buck pulled in promptly at 7 a.m. and had Deacon with him. We loaded the luggage into the van, headed out to I-94 for our trip to City Airport where the station kept its corporate jet. Once there, we were greeted by the pilot and the flight attendant and instructed on how to be good passengers. All our baggage was loaded and Buck commented to the flight attendant about whether our baggage would end up in Vegas with us. She smiled and said as long as the plane stays together, everything should land together in Vegas. Buck laughed and said, “What stays together, lands together in Vegas, baby!" She was mildly amused.

I had taken numerous commercial flights back and forth to Vegas; this was the smallest plane I ever took. We all had window seats and buckled in for the take off. Deacon looked pale; I asked if he was all right. He smiled and said he wasn't a good flyer. I said just think of me and a room full of cats. He laughed out loud and put his head back with that image. The plane moved out to the runway, must have been given clearance as we were zipping out and away into the wild blue yonder. My stomach settled and I looked to Deacon and he was just smiling. "Did the cats kill me yet?" I asked. He looked over and nodded.

We flew over the United States at a leisurely pace. About midway, I started to see the mysterious dark circles on the ground that I had seen in the past flights. I figured they were some alien signage to show where to land their saucers. Penny said they were probably agriculture crop circles, but did say they looked pretty from the air. Miles and miles of them, some full circle, some three quarter and some half all spelling out "Land here". Then we got to the mountains, it was amazing seeing cities nestled below thousand foot cliffs, roads zigzagging across the landscape, seemingly going nowhere. I could see microscopic vehicles moving like ticks on the surface. I loved to fly, I loved looking at the miniature setting below. Then we entered into the cotton candy. Our pilot took us above the clouds and it was like there was no earth below, just white, fluffy clouds. My camera was busy recording everything; I felt like a tourist, but what the hell, I wanted proof.

After about three hours, the pilot announced we would be making our decent into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas in about a half hour. He hoped we enjoyed our flight and said he'd be back in a week for our return flight. I mumbled, if I return.

We landed without too much of a bump and Deacon was just muttering meow under his breath. I felt threatened. Our jet taxied onto the tarmac, by the hangers, and they lowered the steps for our departing the plane. Our baggage was loaded on a cart, and we were told it would meet us by the car rental station at D gate. They put us on an oversized golf cart and transported us to D gate. We all walked through to the terminal, heading in the direction of the car rental stand, we were told to go to. Deacon and Buck were amazed by the concourse, with all the slot machines, and into the baggage pickup for the commercial flight passengers. Looking overhead, the giant video screens blasted out ads featuring everything from Blue Man Group to Barry Manilow.

We approached the car rental booth and announced our arrival. We were given the VIP treatment and our baggage was waiting in the lot along with the SUV that was ordered for us. We piled in the luggage, and then piled ourselves into the beast, I took command of the driver's seat and we headed out. I maneuvered us over to Russell Road, and then to Maryland Parkway, my favorite road. I headed north and got to Flamingo Road and turned right. I was pointing out all the landmarks, the "99 Cent Only" store that I practically lived in, and the library. Over to the left, was the shopping center that I would buy my groceries at, Albertsons, and paid my car insurance to the Allstate people there. I drove down to Spencer Street and turned right, at the Rite-Aid drug store, where I would buy my beer, and then announcing that we would be going by the apartment buildings that I lived with my son. Turning on to Rochelle Street, I pulled into the parking lot and pointed out the building I lived in. Leaving there, I headed back out to Flamingo and got to the strip, Las Vegas Boulevard, and turned north. I pointed out the Flamingo Hotel/Casino were I worked for five months and then up past Hurrahs, the Venetian, Mirage, Riviera and up to the Stratosphere and beyond. Buck was yelling out the names of strip clubs as we passed.

I drove everyone up past Charleston Avenue, then up to just off Fremont Street. I circled around and found a parking space by the Golden Nugget, and piled everyone out. I took Penny's hand and we went around to Fremont Street. We wandered the enclosed street as I gave the guided tour of old town Vegas. We saw the Golden Nugget, where Sinatra performed, Deacon smiled as he was named for Sinatra. We stood and watched the street artists, painting on spinning canvas, and stopping at booths selling everything from license plates and t-shirts to "I love Las Vegas" buttons.

I didn't want to wear out my little troops on the first day, so I got the address of Deacon's sister's house, found it on my Palm TX map program and headed there. She lived in North Las Vegas, not far from where we were. Deacon got out and headed up to the house, banging on the door, yelling "Open up, it's the police." Not a funny thing to say in this neighborhood.

I asked Deacon if he had let her know we were coming, he said he called her last week. I suddenly realized Deacon never told us her name, I asked and he was embarrassed that he hadn't told us, he said her name was Maria. Finally the door opened and a very tired looking female stared out. Then she screamed "Frankie!" and flung open the door and jumped on him. I swear she was a head taller then Deacon, but maybe not. Deacon introduced her to us, she apologized, saying she worked last night and was still in bed. It was now 3 p.m. and I remembered my days working here, when I wouldn't get out of bed till almost the same time. Many people here were night people. She pulled Deacon in and invited us to follow. It was a pleasant house and well lived in. Deacon introduced Buck to Maria and he just went speechless. He looked a deer in headlights, I said to Penny. She agreed. Maria kept calling Deacon by the name Frankie, I figured since Deacon's real name was Francis Albert DeAngelo, she would call him Frankie. I just assumed everyone called him Deacon.

Maria stood about as tall as Buck and was about as muscular. She looked like she worked out, besides doing her nightly shows. She was quite attractive, and had her shoulder length, jet-black hair pulled back so tight it made her face look like she underwent a face lift. She probably would kill Buck in the sack. Maria had a face of Italian decent, like Deacon, but her nose looked like it may have had a bit of touch up along with the eyes. She seemed like a bouncy, happy person, quite the opposite of Deacon, the controlled storm that made up his character.

"My god, Frankie, you look so pale, and skinny!" she laughed.

"I had an accident on the job. I didn't tell you when I called last week, I was in the hospital for about a month and I had major surgery on my hip."

She looked shocked and said, "You OK now?"

"Yeah, sis, I'll be all right with a little more therapy." he replied. "It's so good to see you again, baby girl!"

She pulled his head down and nuggied it. Then she said to Buck, "You gonna stay here with us?"

Buck looked terrified, hoping she didn't nuggie his head, but said sure. She grabbed hold of him and just about lifted him off the ground with a bear hug.

She backed off and apologized, "I forget my own strength some times. You have to be athletic to be a showgirl, so many nights, so many kicks and numbers. We get a bit strong after a while. I promise I won't kill you."

Now he looked more than terrified. It was cute, I thought.

I told Deacon, Buck and Maria that Penny and I should go check into our room at the MGM Grand. I said if they need us to call my cell phone and we'd come running. But not till tomorrow. I grinned.

We said our good-byes, Buck looked like he was being sentenced to a week at hell house, and we took off.

*


  Chapter Three
---------------

Penny and I arrived at the MGM Grand and I let the valets unload the SUV. They gave me the ticket for the vehicle, drove it off and pushed the luggage into the lobby. We went to the check in, gave our names and signed in. Penny's station was going whole hog with the accommodations, and we were whisked up to the next to the top floor. Our Porter opened the door to our suite and moved the luggage into the room. He stood with a smile on his face, I knew he was hoping for a tip, I slipped him a five; he thanked me and headed out. Penny was standing at the window, amazed by the view. I came up behind her and just about lost my breath. I didn't like heights, unless they were protected by rail or windows, but it still made me nervous. I wrapped my arms around Penny and kissed her ear. She said she loved this, the city, being here with me. I was also amazed at the sight we had from our window, as long as I didn't look down. We could see past the Stratosphere, the tallest structure west of the Mississippi, to the beautiful mountain range that circled Las Vegas. I loved the mountains. The sight of Las Vegas Boulevard snaking it's way North passed all the casinos that have stood for years, some new, some old, some waiting to be imploded to make way for a shiny new building. The dreams of many people wanting a taste of the pie. I was content with the woman in front of me, my treasure.

We had most our clothing unpacked; I was feeling quite hungry, and said so. Penny agreed and we dressed casually to go eat. We got to the lobby and out onto Vegas Boulevard. I pointed to the New York, New York Hotel building across the street and told Penny about working there for the magic shop. We wandered up the street and stopped into a Subway shop to get subs to eat. I took Penny around the side of the building, where I used to sit to eat my subs, for what seemed years ago. We finished and walked further up the street, taking in the sights. We got to the Flamingo Hotel and went in, through the casino, up to the show room entrance, where I used to stand at the end of each show, selling souvenirs of the show. Back out, we manage to get up to the Mirage and since it was now getting a bit dark, the volcano out front was starting to erupt. We went to the other side of the boulevard and walked back down towards our hotel. We got to the Bellagio Hotel and leaned against the stone railing and watched the fountains and blasts of water up to the sky doing its ballet. The air was warm and dry, breathing was easy, and the spray of the water felt good to our skins.

We got back to the hotel and I took Penny out to valet parking and got our vehicle. We drove back up the strip and again parked by the Golden Nugget. It was dark now and I wanted Penny to see the video overhead on Fremont Street. It hadn't started yet; music was playing down the entire length of the street, piping out from huge overhead speakers, making the sound surround us. Suddenly the entire place went dark, all the casinos had shut off their thousands of lights, the crowd gave a happy cheer and then it began. The whole sky overhead lit up with sound and video, jet planes roared from one end down almost two blocks to the other. Then eagles screamed and flew, music swelled and the whole thing turned colors and shapes. Penny grabbed on to me every time the scenes changed. She looked like a little girl at her first fireworks. The show ended and she hugged me, whispering she could see why I loved the place.

We rode back to the MGM Grand and Penny was humming music from the show. She looked beautiful in the lights from the strip, but I had to keep my eyes on the road. We drove into valet parking and they went off with the car, as we headed into the lobby. The elevator took a slow ride to our floor. I kidded with Penny about having sex in the elevator, but they have cameras in them to watch us, pointing up to the little eye in the corner of the ceiling. She laughed and pushed me against the wall and started smooching me, then threw a kiss to the camera. This girl is dangerous, I thought.

Back in our room, I turned on the whirlpool spa and stripped down before Penny knew what I was doing. She giggled, and joined me. The whirlpool was right in front of the window, so we could look out at the city lights, all shining bright. Before we could wrinkle too badly, we got out and dried off. I would have carried her to the bed, but my back would have gone out and ruined a great vacation. I told her to pretend I was carrying her and pulled her to the oversized bed. We made love for the next hour or so, and then we both felt the exhaustion of the day tugging at us. We cuddled and slept.

The next morning around 8 a.m., my phone rang and it was Buck saying howdy. I asked if he survived the night and he said that they had a fantastic time. Maria took both of them to her show and got them front row seats. Deacon warned him not to look when the women were bare breasted, Buck said he peeked. He whispered in the phone, Maria's got a great rack. I could see his smile through the phone. He asked if Penny and I were coming to get them. I told him I had to go to Metro police to say hi to a few names on Trapper's list, then Penny and I would be going to the convention center to get Penny registered. I said he was more than welcome to come, but he said he wanted to spend the day with Deacon and Maria. I said no problem and would call them later on.

Penny and I dressed and went down to find where the breakfast buffet was, located it and had a nice meal. We went out to the valet parking, Penny commented on it being a bit chilly out, I said April in Vegas has been known to be cold in the mornings, I said you should have packed some warm clothes. She smacked my arm. The valet brought our vehicle around and we drove out onto Tropicana Avenue and went to the address Trapper gave me for the Metro H.Q. he had worked out of. We pulled into the lot, parked, and went to the front desk. A rather large officer was manning it and politely asked the nature of our business. I asked for the first name on the list, a Captain Weber, and the officer asked what it was in regards to. I felt like telling him that was none of his business, but I cooperated, I said we were mutual friends of Will Trapper. The officer just stared, I felt uncomfortable, and then he smiled and asked what the dumb shit was up to these days. Thankfully, he knew Trapper and was a friend. I told him that he just made homicide Lieutenant and help me to get my P.I. license. I had my Glock in a box and showed it to him, saying I was doing bodyguard work and Trapper told me to check in, before I carried it. He picked up the phone and called Weber directly. He smiled and said he had two friends of a scumbag that claims to have worked here a few years back. He paused and just said, Trapper. I could hear him howl through the phone, then a door to our right flew open and a balding, overweight man came storming out.

"I hope to hell, Trapper's not planning on coming back here!" he grinned, coming up to me.

"No, Captain, he's quite happy back in Michigan." I introduced myself and then Penny.

We all shook hands, and then he studied Penny for a couple of seconds, "You that TV show woman that was stalked by the psychos back in Michigan?"

She blushed and said she was, then he looked at me. "You the guy who stopped them?"

I said I was one of them. "It was a group effort, Trapper was involved and save my life by shooting the ring leader of the killers."

"Damn, Trapper must have straightened out his act. He was a real pain in the ass when he was a rookie. He used to smuggle in hookers to the precinct and have little orgies in the back cells," he grinned wide.

"I'll have to call him on that when we get back."

"Come on into my office, and we'll talk." He led the way. We had a good talk about everything Trapper had done in his reckless youth. I had some great stories now for Buck. I explained my being there to let them know of my intentions to carry a weapon and be a bodyguard for Penny. He handed me a couple of his cards and said if I had any problems to show this and have them call him. He did have me write down the serial number of the gun, just for the record, I did. I put the gun in the holster I had on under my jacket, and relaxed. We talked a bit more about the classmate murders and Penny was really talking up a storm about it, I guess she was over it now. The Captain was enjoying our talk, and asked us to stop back and visit again. He had business to attend to and we had to get Penny to the convention center, so we all shook hands and went out. An officer in bicycle uniform stopped us, and said when we saw Trapper to tell him Marko says hey. Word spread fast.

We drove out and I swung around back to Tropicana Avenue, and headed over to Paradise Road, to where the Las Vegas Convention Center was located. On the way over I pulled out my cell phone and hit speed dial for Trapper.

He answered, "Richards, you in trouble already?"

"No, I just wanted to know if you have any hookers in your jail cells."

He was quiet for a moment, "They just had to mention that, eh?"

I said, "Weber told me a whole lot about you. I have a new respect for you now, and a whole lot to tell Buck."

"Oh, you do that and I'll never speak to you again."

"Well, I have to share something with him. Just to balance the scales. He feels less than you for the stuff he did. I'll go easy, just enough to make him happy. Oh, someone named Marko said hey," I chuckled.

"That jerk, was just that, a jerk. I pretended to like him. Did you get things settled with Weber, with your gun, I mean," he asked.

"Yeah, we're square; he seems like a decent guy."

He agreed, "Weber was a tight ass, but fair. I trusted him, you should too."

"Ok, Penny and I are going to get her checked in at the convention center, so I'll keep in touch."

He said do that and hung up.

We got to the convention center and Penny located her booth. It was a nice set-up, big picture of Penny, looking beautiful, and signs touting her accomplishments and guests on the show. There were banks of televisions all running clips from her various shows, giving a selection of different styles. I noticed a stack of pamphlets that featured the classmate murders incident and Penny's involvement, complete with forensic pictures of the killers. Must have gotten the photos from someone in the police department, Trapper may be interested in seeing one of these. Her producer saw us and came over, hugging Penny and shaking my hand.

"Penny, we have good vibes from two networks interested in your show, nothing definite yet, but good, and the convention hasn't even started yet. Lots of done deals go on even before the show, so keep your head up." He waved to someone down the aisle, excused himself and went to schmooze.

We sat down on a couple of chairs at her booth and relaxed a bit. I looked at all the decorations and props and asked her what she thought of it all. She was impressed with the work they put into it. I asked how she felt about going nationwide with her show. She said it would be a big responsibility having to entertain people across the country, trying to please everyone from small towns in Maine, to big cities like this one. She wondered if she could pull it of. I said I had every faith in her abilities to pull it off. I was at most of her shows since she returned to work and I could see the usefulness of the information and discussions from her guests and the entertainment of it all. She was a great host, had personality and humor. She was easy going with the big stars that appeared on her show and asked well thought out questions; she would do well just in Metro Detroit or across the country. Her Producer came back by and said the CW network had just approached him about the show; they wanted to see the stats and numbers on the ratings in our market. He was really happy and scooted off.

I smiled at my girl and said things were looking up. The convention officially started at noon, so we had time to go back to get Penny dressed appropriately and back to play star. We had a quick brunch before heading back to the center; I called Buck and Deacon to see if they were playing nice. They were exploring Neonopolis up in the Fremont Street Experience, with Maria leading the charge. I said I hoped they wouldn't break anything and told them I'd call them later when the convention ended for the day. When I told Penny what our little family was up to, she smiled.

The show started and I sat off to one side where I could watch Penny doing her thing. She smiled and shook hands and signed autographs for just about everyone who came by. Around 5 p.m. I was getting hungry and asked Penny if she needed food. She said a hot dog or something simple would be nice, didn't want to overstuff herself during the show.  I ambled off and found the food court and got us a couple of hotdogs and Pepsi's then back. She ate when she could, her booth was popular.

While I sat there watching Penny, around 7 p.m., my cell phone rang, from the caller ID, it was Buck.

I answered, Buck sounded distressed. "Jimmy, got a problem. Maria took the night off to be with us, and just now got called back. It seems the girl who took her place for tonight's show was found murdered. Deacon is having fits thinking it could have been her."

*


  Chapter Four
--------------

I told Penny about Buck's call; she said she knew my becoming a P.I. would attract murder. I had to smile even though the situation was grim. Penny told me to go see if Deacon is all right, she would get a cab back to the hotel. I said I didn't want to leave her, but she insisted I go help our friends. She said she would be all right. I kissed her cheek and went to the car. I called Buck and asked where they were, he said at Maria's house for now, but just getting ready to go to the Tropicana Hotel. I asked where the murder happened and he said in the backstage dressing room. Maria's substitute was there, along with a friend, getting Maria's costumes ready for her to wear tonight. There was an energy drink can in Maria's locker and the sub decided she was going to drink it. The can was tampered with and poisoned. That's why Deacon thinks it was aimed at Maria. I told Buck I'd meet them there and hung up.

I arrived and parked along the side and went in. I liked the Tropicana; it still had the old Vegas feel to it. The casino still had lots of wood and gaudy wallpaper to make one feel like you were back when Bugsy Siegel still roamed Vegas. I had worked there a couple of times, doing my magic pitch for the small magic booth that sat out near the entrance. I went in and headed to the showroom, I flashed my investigator's I.D., hoping the usher didn't get a good look at it. I asked to where the dressing rooms were, he gave me directions. I went through a small maze, into the room, and there was a bit of confusion going on, performers getting ready and showgirls flying feathers around. Off to the side I saw Deacon and Buck talking to some guy in a tailored suit. I approached and listened.

"Officer DeAngelo, I understand your concern for your sister, but we will be watching her carefully now, you can relax." The strange man was saying.

Buck saw me and came over. I asked, "Who's the suit?"

Buck smiled and said, "Hotel security. You'd think with all the cameras in this place, they'd have some play back on who put the poisoned drink in Maria's locker."

"They can't have cameras in a dressing area, it's some law. Women don't want their private parts shown on YouTube." I answered.

"Dumb, these women parade their boobies around every night, but don't want them to be seen online." He smirked.

"Same law that says no cameras in restrooms too, you wouldn't want your dick on some video."

"Hey, I'm proud of my dick," he grinned.

Deacon left the man and came over to us. Deacon was still a cop even though he was now on medical leave, which is why the suit called him officer.

"These people are idiots. When the vic started to convulse from the drink, her friend called security, but she was dead by the time they got there. They called in Metro, and Metro did a cursory investigation, and then removed the body, but hotel security is being tight lipped about all of it." Deacon was fuming.

I told him I knew someone in Metro now, who may help us. I was thinking of Weber.

"I grilled Maria as to why anyone would want to harm her. She has no idea who," Deacon said.

"We'll wait till after the show and we can all sit down and do some thinking. We can go back to the suite at the MGM Grand; you've got to see this place." I grinned.

Deacon smiled a bit, and then looked worried again. I called Penny and told her what was going on and to expect guests in our room, she said that was fine with her, she needed better company anyway, and then she quickly hung up before I could protest. We went out of the dressing area, stood at the back of the showroom, just as the show started. One usher came up and asked if we had seats, Deacon pulled out his badge and said we were investigating. The usher accepted that and toddled off. Deacon grinned at me and said it's nice having a badge, I agreed.

We watched the show and after it ended, we went out to where we arranged to meet with Maria. Buck and I babbled about enjoying the chorus line of boobs, Deacon just told us to shut up. After a while Maria popped up and we departed the Tropicana. The MGM Grand was just across the road from us, so the trip didn't take long.
  
We all piled into the elevator and up to the floor, Penny opened the door just as we got to it. I said she shouldn't open so quickly until she knew who it was. She laughed and said she could hear Buck's distinctive voice and knew it was us. Everyone came in to the main area of the room, amazed at the beauty of it all, and the great view of the strip. Buck said he wasn't leaving when he saw the whirlpool spa. I told him to stay out of it.

I called room service and asked for a twelve pack of Milwaukee's Best beer, a couple of bottles of some decent wine and a two liter bottle of Diet Sprite. They had it up in record time. I popped open a beer as Penny joined me; we offered wine or beer for our guests. Buck took the whole bottle of Sprite and sat back. Penny said to me it was like we were having a little party. Unfortunately, it was time to talk murder.

"Maria, explain to me the dressing room set-up and procedure for the girl's getting ready for a show." I directed the question to her.

"Well, the whole place is empty during the day, anyone could slip in unnoticed. The lockers aren't locked up because management doesn't want them to be, I guess to be able to look for drugs, or something. That energy drink wasn't mine, I don't drink that crap. I make my own energy drinks from good stuff. The girl in the next locker to me drinks that brand, her name's Lori Davis," she looked to Deacon and continued, "I told the police, and Deacon, that maybe the killer put the can in the wrong locker. We all come in an hour before a show to get ready and it would be then that Lori would gulp down her drink."

"Tonight, did Lori say anything to you about the murder? Did you say anything to her?"

"Lori wasn't scheduled to work tonight; we take turns for nights off, so we don't have come in every night."

"Do you know how to reach Lori?" I asked. She said she had phone numbers of all the girls, just in case she couldn't come in. I continued, "Did you call the girl who was murdered, to fill in for you?"

"I called Lori, since she was off tonight, she said she had a date and would call someone else, I guess it was the murdered girl. I haven't talked to Lori yet."

"Why was the girl in your locker?" I asked.

"We have different shows and different costumes, she needed mine for the show tonight, and we all share as needed.  I guess she saw the energy drink and figured since she was doing me a favor, she would drink it."

"I think we really need to talk to Lori now, this sounds like she may be involved," I asked Maria. "Can you call her for me?"

She said she would, and I handed her my cell phone. Maria checked her address book and dialed the number. She sat for a while and said there was no answer. She remembered Lori saying she had a date tonight and probably was still out. I said we would call on her in the morning. I told Deacon that I didn't think this was aimed at Maria, knowing she would have never drank from the energy drink can. The closeness of Lori's locker, who does drink that brand, sort of suggests someone was trying to get to her. He had to agree, but said he wasn't letting his guard down.

We just sat and relaxed for a while longer, then our guests left for the night.

Penny was totally wiped out by the long day, and greeting people. I insisted she go to bed, since she had to do it all again tomorrow. She thanked me for not wanting sex with her tonight, kissed me and went off to bed. I thought about the sex part, but just opened another beer, and sat in a chair that faced out over the strip. I loved the site of it all, flashing and flowing. I could just barely see the volcano at the Mirage, as it spewed its watery flames up, impressing all who stood by to watch.

I started to think about the trip out here and all that happened since. I couldn't believe I was back in Las Vegas, now with a wonderful woman who made my heart and a few other things work better. I really didn't know what it was about me that Penny found interesting or desirable. I had charm, granted, but my body was not in the best shape and I wasn't all that handsome. OK, I had a weird sense of humor which we shared, and I made her laugh frequently. Women, when asked, always say they want a man with a good sense of humor; no one ever says they want a serious, reserved guy. I guess we need humor in our lives to survive. I had a happy outlook on life; I tried not to let things bother me, although most bad things did bother me. I just sucked it up realizing that some things just can't be changed. But I was sure as hell going to change things I can. With my new profession as a private dick, I would go after those things that bad people don't want changed and change them for the better. I thought about the murder of an innocent girl, I had to change that for the better. I put my head back, and then I drifted off, asleep in the chair.

I was suddenly blinded by a light, realizing it was morning and I was still in the chair. The light was from the sun reflected off the glass from the Monte Carlo Hotel, across the street, hitting our window. I got up feeling a lot stiff from sitting all night and looked at my watch. It was just now 7:45 and Penny had about two hours to be at the convention center. I went into the bedroom, dropping the clothes I wore all yesterday, and snuggled into bed with my girl. She stretched and without turning towards me, said, "Good morning, Eric. You stud muffin." I whispered in her ear, "Do you have a death wish?" She turned and kissed my lips and reached down between my legs and groped me.

"Good to see these are still here." She kissed me again and then jumped up and straddled me. She was naked, which surprised me. She said she waited most of the night for me, but she guessed I decided the chair was a better place than with her. She was my breakfast in bed, and with no crumbs. We rolled around in the sheets and had most of them off the bed before we finished. Lying still, she looked me in the eyes, and said that was better than pancakes. She jumped up and ran out to the main room and I could hear the whirlpool spa turning on. I jumped up and joined her. We had breakfast again in the tub.

We were dressed and had about an hour to go; I asked if she would miss me if I went off to investigate. She said she'd enjoy the solitude. I did say I was going to ask Buck to stay with her, and guard her body, she said that idea was fine with her.

I called Buck and asked him for the favor, he said he'd be happy to guard Penny. I didn't tell him that the day was going to be really boring sitting around watching people, but I figured he'd find that out for himself.

Penny and I grabbed a real bite of breakfast at the buffet, and then headed to valet. We tooled out of the MGM Grand and went to get Buck. I said to Deacon that I would be back and we could do some snooping, he said he'd be ready. I noticed he had his service pistol tucked into his belt, still worrying about the situation. I drove Penny and Buck to the convention center and dropped them off. I felt sorry for Buck; he was in for a long day. I got back to Maria's and went in the house after Deacon opened the door for me. I told Maria I thought we should go see Lori rather than call on the phone, we could get more accomplished that way. She got the address from her address book and wrote it down, and then we went down the strip again to Flamingo Road and headed over to Rancho Drive to where Lori lived. I had gotten the location of her house from my Palm and we drove into the drive. There was a car in front of us; Maria said she didn't know what kind of car Lori drove, so we assumed it was hers. The three of us went up to the front door, and I knocked. We waited a bit, and then I knocked again. No answer. I went to the front window and looked in, I stood up and turned to Deacon and said, I think we should call Metro. He came over and looked in the window; a woman was laying in the front room in a pool of blood. Maria looked in and stared to gag, but held on, she said it was Lori. She didn't look like she was alive.

I took out Weber's card and called him, reminding him who I was and he was sounding in a good mood, until I related what we had been up to from last night till this morning. I told him where we were and that we found Lori Davis dead in her living room, but didn't go in. He thanked me for calling and said he'd be there shortly. After a bit, patrol cars roared up and we were overrun with brown uniforms. Weber drove up a short time later, by that time the officers had the door open and CSI was on the scene. I asked one of the CSI if Marg Helgenberger was around, he wasn't very friendly about it. I left him be. Weber came up and wanted all the details. I introduced him to Deacon as Officer DeAngelo from Trapper's squad. Weber beamed at him and said he would like to talk to him about Trapper, sometime. He really got off on Trapper stories; I think he actually missed him. Deacon introduced his sister and Weber said he read the reports about the murder at the Tropicana, so he knew about her. We went over to the sidewalk and I told him what we deduced last night and he thanked me for the details. He ask if Deacon and I wouldn't get into too much trouble while we were here, meaning watch our steps, and asked that any info we come across be shared with him or the primary officer now on the case.

The primary officer came over, she was introduced to us by Weber, Detective Sergeant Lynn Carter, then he said he had to go stroke the wheels of justice and departed. I filled in Carter with as much info that we had. She was eyeing Deacon while I was talking to her, and Deacon was looking like a school boy being stalked by a playground flirt. Carter was a handsome woman, tight skin, bright blue eyes that pierced with a look. She was well tanned, either from working outside or a tanning freak and she stood just up to Deacon's nose, a tall woman. She could almost see directly into Deacon's eyes if she stood on her toes.

Maria was on her toes, too, and stepped between Deacon and Carter, she could almost look into Carter's eyes, saying she wanted to help catch the killer of her two friends. Carter moved around Maria and said she appreciated the offer and would keep an eye on her and her brother. Deacon said that he would be available to help with anything involving the case. He had a special interest since his sister was involved. Carter said she was sure she would need his help. I was ready to get out a garden hose to spray the two of them down, and then she turned on her heels and said she had to get back to the crime scene. She stopped, turned her head and asked Deacon if he'd like to join in to advise as an officer of the law. I could just about see him panting as he followed her to the house. Maria just stood there saying son of a bitch. I took her arm and said she should be supportive of her brother, I could hear the foot stomps of little feet in their future. She laughed and said she guessed Deacon deserved a bit of romance. She was worried for years that he was gay, since he never had a romance that she knew of. I said it looked like there might be one starting, since I could see Deacon following Carter around like a puppy in love.
 

*


  Chapter Five
--------------

Penny was going great guns with chatting up visitors to the convention. She was asked a good number of questions about the classmate murders, and she would introduce Buck as one of the crime busters, who helped solve the case. Buck was a bit shy about it at first, but after a couple of hours, he got into the swing of things, and was enjoying the notoriety of it all. A number of people would stop and ask if he was Hulk Hogan and he would politely say no. Then people were getting insistent that he was, in fact, Hulk Hogan, so he would start to play the part.

A while later, Buck was leaning on the counter reading the pamphlet, saw a shadow come over him, looking up he was shocked to see Hulk Hogan standing there. Buck started sweating, and just said hi. Hogan looked at him and said he could see the resemblance, but asked Buck to stop being him. Buck agreed and told Hogan that if they ever made the classmate murders into a movie, Buck would want the Hulk to play him. Hogan looked at the pamphlet and said he'd be honored. He said he was there promoting his cable show, shook Buck's hand, and then he strode off, leaving Buck with his mouth open. Penny whacked him and he snapped out of the trance he was in.

"My God, did you see who that was!" Buck choked. He went to his chair and sat quietly smiling.

Maria and I wandered over to the side of the front lawn, to where a woman stood, watching all the confusion. She looked like a neighbor, so I introduced myself, showed her my I.D., and asked if I could talk to her. She said I could.

"Did you know Lori Davis?" I started.

"We got along well, she liked to sunbathe out back, and I would talk to her over the fence, she liked to talk," she answered.

"Did you see anything last night, any comings or goings to the house?"

"Not really, but around 1 a.m. I thought I heard a car drive up, I assumed it was her. Then about a half hour later it drove away. I didn't look out; I'm not a nosey person." She smiled. I doubted that.

"Do you know of anyone she may have been involved with, say a boyfriend, or lover?"

She stepped a little closer and talked a bit lower to me, "Well, I don't want to speak ill of the dead, but she was having an affair with one of the strip entertainers." She nodded her head as if we knew who.

I said finally, "I have no idea, who was it?"

"Nick North, of course." She smiled like she was exposing a dark secret.

I was a bit shocked when she said his name, it was the person I had come out to Vegas, years ago, to work for and quit months later.

"How do you know this?"

"She told me. She was bragging one day, after we had a good amount of wine out back, that she was banging a strip headliner and he was going to marry her, when he got rid of his present girlfriend. I, of course, knew he wouldn't, but she was so wide-eyed about it, I didn't want to rain on her parade. I'll bet he murdered her." She brightened as though she solved the case.

"Hmm… you should talk to the officer in charge about that." I saw detective Carter and Deacon standing out front, Carter dangerously close to him. I called to Carter, and she came over, followed by her lapdog. I told her, this nice neighbor lady has a theory about the crime. I left them to talk and grabbing Deacon by the arm, pulling him away.

"When's the wedding date set for?" I asked.

He looked at me blankly, then grinned, "Oh, she is something, isn't she. So strong and forceful. I have to admit, I'm taken by her."

"Yeah, I think everyone can see that. Be careful, she seems to know what she wants, and she carries a gun." I grinned widely.

"Yep, and a big gun," he replied. I kind of wondered about that statement.

I told Deacon what the neighbor had said about Nick North and how he was involved with Lori. Deacon recognized the name since I told him about my days here, while we were killing time on the plane. He had heard the name before that when Comedy Central ran a special on comics from Vegas, so he knew who North was.

"It would be so funny if Nicky was involved in this," I smirked. "He was such an annoying person, but I don't think he had homicidal tendencies. But then again, most killers all came out looking like the nice boy next door."

"If North is involved with this, we have to nail him, he could have killed my sister with that poison stunt." He gritted his teeth.

"If he did it, I'll be happy to nail him."

Carter came over to us and took Deacon by the arm and took him aside. I could hear her asking him if he knew anything about Nick North. Carter looked back to me after Deacon told her about my connection. She came back to me.

"You worked for North?" I said I had. "Did he seem like a person who would murder someone?"

"Neighbors said Jeffrey Dahmer seemed like such a nice person, so who's to say what a nasty person like North would be capable of doing," I replied.

She just nodded, was quiet for a bit then said, "I may need you and Deacon to come in and give official statements in regards to this case."

I handed her one of my new P.I. cards, and told her I could be reached at the number. She asked if Deacon had a card, he smiled and gave her one. She put my card in the folder she carried, and put Deacon's card in her shirt pocket. I could see where that was going.

Just about then, a news van from KLAS TV pulled up and out piled the circus clowns. I didn't like the media much, for the way they treat people to get the breaking news story to annoy TV viewers by interrupting their favorite shows. Carter said she had to take control of the situation, looked to Deacon saying she'd be in touch, and stormed off.

"She'll be touching you all right." I grinned, Deacon said to shut up and we headed to our vehicle. Maria was scolding Deacon for the way he acted around "that hussy". Deacon defended himself saying she was coming on to him. Maria just went silent, which I assume Deacon didn't like. He kept defending himself, I said just to give it up.

We sat in the SUV and I asked Deacon what he found out in the crime scene. He said, "The vic, Lori, was stabbed with a large pair of scissors up through the throat to the brain. Then the scissors were pulled and she was also stabbed through the heart. She died quite quickly according to the coroner. They'll need to check for fingerprints on the shears and there were a couple of glasses of wine on a table. There was no sign of a struggle and under her nails were clean, so she didn't scratch the killer. CSI is doing a sweep of the place, but in real life they won't have answers in an hour."  

"Was there anything else in the room to point to North?" I wondered.

"Nothing they found, but then they weren't looking to North as the killer, yet. Not till the neighbor brought it up."

I said grimly, "I'm not crazy about personally contacting North. I think we'll just sneak around the back for a bit. I still know a few people in this town who may be able to fill us in on him."

I looked at my watch and it was now just 3:20 p.m. and I started the SUV up and drove out of the drive nearly knocking over the reporter who was heading in our direction, he was yelling if we had a word to say, since we found the body. I gave him a one finger salute and drove away.

"I guess you don't like reporters." Deacon grinned.

"Nope, can't stand them. They think they're the answer to all our ills. The world would crumble without them telling us what is exploding, burning, falling down or murdering at the very minute it happens." I spat. Maria cheered me on, said she didn't like them either, she praised.

We headed back to the strip and I turned on Koval Road going to the back way of the Flamingo Hotel. I spun around the alley between Hurrahs and Imperial Palace, then up the service road between O'Sheas casino and the Flamingo. I pulled into the opening to the parking structure and drove up a couple of stories. We got out and went across the tunnel over the road to the entrance of the back world of the Flamingo, where I used to walk every day I worked there. We got to the guard, at his little booth, and I had already told Deacon to bring out his badge as I pulled my I.D. and I said we needed to see Wally Pine, head carpenter of the backstage crew. He asked if we knew the way, and I said I did. We went down the corridor to the door leading to the dressing rooms. Donny and Marie Osmond were performing at the Flamingo in the evenings and I said to my partners in crime, we may run into them. Maria just giggled and said she loved Donnie. Deacon rolled his eyes and we went in. The hallway led to the dressing rooms, but my interest was down a long flight of stairs to the backstage area. We went down, and under the stairs was where Wally had his desk. The desk light was on and he was sitting doing his paperwork.

"The work never ends, does it?" I said in the dark of the backstage.

He looked up and tried to focus on the dark, I walked forward into the light. His eyes went big.

"James, what the hell you doing here, you old fart?" he yelled.

"I'm a big time P.I. now, hot on a case. I need to interrogate you," I grinned. Then I introduced Deacon and Maria.

"A distinct pleasure to meet you. And what are you babbling about being a private dick?" He was a little, skinny man, with thin reddish hair and a mustache that took up most of his face. He spoke with a slight Boston accent that was a bit nasal.

I showed him my I.D. and he said, "Yep, I got one of those too. Had it made up as a pussy inspector. Pardon me, ma'am," speaking to Maria.

Deacon brought out his badge and said that he didn't have one of these, with a big smile. Wally squinted at it, laughed and said no.

"Pull up some chairs and sit. I was just doing the weekly payroll. But you'd know that, working here as you pretended to do."

We all sat and I pulled my chair over to Wally's and said "Nick North."

"Damn, that's a name I didn't want to hear again. Why did you have to spoil my appetite?"

"Wally, your ear is to the pipe line of all the backstage crews, so you may have heard any scuttlebutt about good old Nicky," I inquired.

"Well, James, I may have a story or five to tell. What'cha need to know?"

"How about his love life?"

"Damn, Jim, you knew more about that than most of us, you were at his house every day to watch the women come and go."

"I did, back then, I mean now. Heard any juicy gossip?" I gave him my best P.I. look.

"Well, he is still stringing along that gal from California, the one he went out to see every other weekend. Of course, when he's in town, he's dicking a cute little blond, I think her name is Loni or something like that." He was trying to remember.

"Lori, you mean?"

"Yeah, that's the name; I think she's a showgirl at the Trop."

Maria piped in, "Was a showgirl at the Trop."

Wally looked at her and then me, "Was she fired?"

"Murdered," I said. "This morning around 1 a.m. I'm wondering if good old Nicky may have been involved."

"Damn it to hell. I wouldn't say he did, but he was a rotten person." Wally scrunched up his face. "Ok, you didn't get this from me." He pulled his chair out closer to us. "Word has it that she may have been pregnant. Not verified by any of us, but just something going around."

Maria looked a bit stunned, she said, "Lori never said anything to us girls about it." She looked at Wally's confused expression and said, "I'm a showgirl at the Trop. We had lockers next to each other."

"Ma'am, it's a pleasure to meet one of the famous Tropicana showgirls. I'm sure you would know whether she was pregnant or not, but us stage hands have a way of hearing things most others don't hear, if you know what I mean," he grinned.

"Some of my better work friends are stage hands. Do you know Mokey?" she asked.

"Hell, yeah. You must be that hot little Italian number he talks about," he grinned.

Maria was blushing so bright, that she about glowed. "I'm going to have a long talk with Mokey about that."

"Don't take it personal, ma'am, he's an admirer. Anyways, I'm glad you mentioned Mokey, he was one of the few to mention Lori's pregnancy."

"How would he know?" I asked.

"Mokey had to clean the backstage johns. He was in the process of cleaning one day when she came running up and had to use it. He said she was getting sick and apologized for messing up the toilet. She said she had a bit of morning sickness, she confided that she was prego and Nicky was the father," he related. "People talk to us like we're confessors, or bartenders."

My cell phone rang, the caller I.D. said it was Penny. I excused myself and walked off to the side of the backstage.

"Hey, everything all right?" I worried before she even said anything.

"I'm fine. Buck's a bit distressed though, he met up with his idol, Hulk Hogan and now he's just a wreck. Some people react strangely towards meeting stars," she laughed. "How is the investigation going?"

"I have a lot to tell you, but now is not the time, I'm in the middle of beating info out of a snitch," I grinned.

"I'm not going to ask. Tell me later. I just wanted to hear your voice, I miss you. Things are busy here; I hope you aren't going to sleep in the chair tonight. That's all I wanted to say, go back to your beatings and don't bruise your knuckles." I heard her laugh and she hung up before I could say anything. She was a crazy woman.

I went back to the group and apologized for the interruption.

"Deacon tells me you guys were in on that psycho killings back in Michigan, and you're now having great sex with that TV talk show host." He snickered.

"How'd you cover all that in the short time I was gone?" I wondered.

"We talked fast; Wally needed something to pass on to his buddies about you." Deacon laughed.

I asked Wally how was the gang from the crew here. He mentioned names and what they were up to, and said he would fill them all in when they come in tonight. I said I'd try to get back one night, with my TV talk show host, and say hi. Maria spoke up and asked Wally what Donnie Osmond was like. Wally gave glowing praise for the man, and said Marie wasn't bad either, easy on the eyes. I gave Wally one of my cards and said if he heard anything new on Nicky, to call. Then, I said to call anytime, I missed all the guys. We got up and shook hands; Maria gave him a big hug and said she'd tell Mokey that she had a crush on Wally now. He beamed and said he'd like that just fine.

We headed up the stairs and out. Back to the parking structure, where we finally found the SUV and sat for a bit.

"A pregnant girl friend while he's cheating on another, good cause for a crime," I supposed. "I don't really know his present situation, with the California girlfriend. Maybe she's still the one he was hooked up with, back when I was here, but that's got to be a stretch. He jumped many ships when things got touchy with his romances. He hung on to her the longest though. Probably because she was over in California, that gave him the leg room to indulge his lust here. I remember all the Viagra bottles he had around his bedroom, and he'd be in a panic when he ran out." I smiled, remembering the way he looked when he did run out. "He had one local girlfriend, Lisa, and she just hung all over him. I never talked to her about the situation, but she would just disappear when his California squeeze would come into town. So, she knew what the boundaries were. Lisa was totally into him, she even took a plane to Arizona to bring back his supply of drugs to him, when his regular mule wasn't available. I was pissed, knowing she could have been found out and end up in jail. She was a sweet girl."

Deacon spoke, "The guy sounds like a real scumsucker."

I said, "Please, don't insult scumsuckers."

We headed out and went over to the convention center to rescue Buck.

*


  Chapter Six
-------------

I called Penny and said we were on our way there, and asked if she wanted us to come in or wait for her out front. She said she had another hour before it ended, so she said to come in. I drove around back to where the exhibitors parked, went to the entrance and flashed my exhibitor pass and we went in. We went to Penny's booth and Buck saw us, he started babbling about Hulk Hogan like some star struck kid. Deacon wanted to wander around looking at all the technology. We said for everyone to meet here in an hour. Deacon and Maria wandered off. Buck said he was volunteering to come back tomorrow and do it again. I said that was fine with me. Penny just gave me a Mona Lisa smile and then greeted some new visitors.

 I pulled Buck aside and said, "Do I have to smack you?"

"No, I'm fine now, it was just so great to meet Hulk Hogan, and he shook my hand, I'll never wash it again."

"You mean you do actually wash?" I kidded.

He scrunched up his face and said that was cruel. I offered an apology and thanked him for watching Penny, he said it was his pleasure, and looked forward to tomorrow. Then I filled him in on everything that happened today, and told him I had some great stories about Trapper I wanted to tell him, but when we had more time.

An hour later, Deacon and Maria wandered up, Deacon carrying a bag of literature and pamphlets from the show.

"Man, what a rush! We saw all kinds of TV stars and even Hulk Hogan!" he grinned looking to Buck. "There's some great electronics coming out to make watching TV an interactive thing."

I didn't realize Deacon was so into this stuff. One day I'd have to bring them back to explore more. Maria just yawned, said she had to be dropped off at the Trop to get ready for her show tonight, she was already running late. We left and swung by the Tropicana, dropped her off saying we'd pick her up later, to call us when she was ready. Deacon told us to hold on, he decided to follow his sister and stay with her, just in case. I said we'd be back and left them at the curb. I asked Buck why he didn't go with them, to watch the boobies. He said he wanted to hear all about the stories I had about Trapper, I remembered I had mentioned it to him. We went across the road to the MGM Grand and up to the room.

Buck roared with delight as I related the stories that Weber had told me about Trapper's early days on Vegas Metro. Penny sat with rapt attention to our conversation. She already knew the punch lines, as she was there when Weber told us his tales, but she listened as though it was all new. She laughed and smiled during the good parts, like she heard it for the first time, I loved this woman.

It was just now about 9:30 p.m., and I took out my Palm TX and opened up my contact list. I scanned down and found I still had Lisa James's number. Lisa was the last side dish I knew Nicky had, back when I was keeping his empire together. She was the cutie that risked her neck to travel across state lines to bring his drugs to him. Stupid woman. I told Penny what I was going to do and went into the bedroom for privacy. I could still hear Buck and Penny roaring out loud, probably reviewing Trappers exploits. I dialed the number and some girl answered, but it didn't sound like the Lisa I remembered.

"Hi, can I speak to Lisa James?" I asked.

The person on the other end was silent for way too long. I said, "Hello?"

The person asked, "Who is this?"

"I'm an old friend of Lisa's, back in 2003, when I worked for Nick North." I hope that would get a reaction.

"Yeah, well, that son of a bitch can kiss my ass," she spit out.

I guess I got my reaction, "Is Lisa still at this number?"

She asked again, "Who are you?"

"My name is Jim Richards; I worked with Lisa for the son of a bitch."

She laughed slightly, and then said, "I remember you. Lisa spoke of how you always watched out for her."

"I did, I liked her, she's a great girl."

"Was, she died last year, the police still haven't found her murderer." I could hear her take a sharp breath, and she started to cry softly.

That tingle in my body started again. I was shocked to hear she was gone.

"Can you talk to me about her now, or shall I call back?" I said with respect.

"No, I'm all right. Just taken back a bit hearing her name again,” she sniffled.

"May I ask what happened? I'm now a private investigator, tracking down a murder from today that may have a connection to Nick North."

"Jim, meet me in the Piano Bar, inside Hurrahs in a half hour, I don't want to talk on the phone. They got a great dueling piano show, its noisy," she said.

"May I bring a couple of friends?"  I asked.

"I don't care if you bring a fucking army, the more the safer. Just be there, I tell you everything I know."

"How will I know you?" I asked.

"I'm blond, good-looking, and I'll be wearing low cut red dress, you can't miss me. If you haven't changed much, I'll know you, we've met before." She hung up.

I was puzzled by her last comment; I wondered when I had met her.

I went out, and rallied my troops saying we had business to attend to, and we all went off to Hurrahs. It was just up the strip so it took no time to get there.

Penny asked what nefarious maneuver we were attempting and I replied, to meet a mysterious woman from my past. She hoped it was over between us, and I said I was sure it was, since I don't even remember her.

We parked and entered the bar, it was a bit crowded and the piano players were putting on their show to rousing cheers. We walked around for a bit then I saw her, it was Lisa, but it wasn't. It was her sister. I remembered her from when she came into town to visit Lisa, so many years ago, but I remembered her beauty. We approached her.

"Jamie, it's good to see you again." I smiled and kissed her cheek.

"You remember me, thank you. Good to see you again, although you have gotten a bit older," she grinned.

"We all get older." I kidded, and then introduced Penny and Buck. "Talk to me." I wanted to know.

"Well, you know Lisa was involved with Nick back when you worked with him. I was in town staying with Lisa when you quit and Lisa was so distressed that you were gone, but Nicky badgered her into taking your job."

"I remember. I had to show her everything I did for the son of a bitch,” I added. "I didn't mind helping her out, I wouldn't have done it for him."

"She hung on for a while, and then she started acting strange. Something was bothering her. She wouldn't tell me but I could see she was getting impatient with his involvement with Sue, from California."

I had forgotten her name.

"Lisa was starting to bug Nicky about him getting more involved with her. Pushing out Sue. Nicky bullied her into being just the other woman and Lisa wasn't happy about it. She told me she threatened Nicky with telling Sue about their affair. Just after that, Lisa was found out in the desert, stabbed to death. I told the police about the deal with Nicky, but he had an air tight alibi, he was in California on business." I could see tears welling up in her eyes.

"I remembered Lisa didn't take my place entirely, she only worked the stage for him. She wasn't in on running his finances or taking care of his business affairs. Who was it that did?" I asked.

"Some guy named Kris Wallace. He was a shrewd bastard. He bullied Lisa and everyone else who worked for Nicky into doing things his way. Nicky didn't care, as I'm sure you remembered. He let people around him run his empire. He didn't want to have to worry about all that crap."

"Do you know anything about him, where he came from or if he still works for Nicky today?"

"I know he was a prick, didn't care about the feelings or needs of the people who counted the most. He definitely didn't like Lisa. He didn't come out and say so but you could tell. I stayed in town for about six months and watched over my sister. As I said she started acting strange."

"I'm going to ask a delicate question, did you know if she was pregnant?" I asked.

Jamie looked a bit shocked, then said, "I wasn't aware if she was, but now you mention it she did seem a bit off, she was sick a lot and she had these mood swings. If you hadn't asked, I would have never thought about it. Yes, she could have been pregnant."

I looked at Buck and Penny; I could see in their faces that they could see where I was going.

"Jamie, the girl who was murdered this morning was pregnant, and from reports from the underground, it was Nicky's baby. Now she's dead, just like Lisa was, stabbed with a pair of scissors. You said Lisa was stabbed, did they say from what?"

"They didn't tell me crap. I was just the sister, I guess they don't tell family what is going on." She looked bitter.

"I'll see what I can find out, I know a few people in Metro that may help." I consoled her, but she was still bitter.

The waitress finally came around; slow going tonight, big crowd. We gave her our orders, I said doubles on all, and she went off. I wondered how long it would take to get a drink here. Surprisingly, she came back in quick order and dropped our drinks, took my money and went off. Jamie thanked me for the drink. She said she was having a tough time, she lost her job at the Fitzgerald Hotel due to cut backs, and her parents helped as best they could. She was behind on her rent and prospects for work didn't look good.

"What did you do at the Fitzgerald?" I asked.

"I worked in their small theatre, as a prop handler. Union job but they didn't help much. I didn't work enough hours to qualify for unemployment. Bastards." I thought a minute, and excused myself to go to the restroom. After I entered the stall I took out my cell phone and called Wally.

"James, two times in one day, I told everybody that you were here. They all said hi," he laughed through the phone.

"Wally, I need a favor." He said name it. "You remember Lisa James?" He said of course, great little gal, "Did you know she was killed last year?"

He was quiet for a second, "Son of a bitch, this just keeps getting deep in shit, doesn't it?" he whistled. "What's the favor?"

"First, how'd you like to meet my TV host girlfriend?"

"I'd be hurt if I didn't get to meet her."

"Is it OK to come by with a few friends tonight?"

He said the show was almost over, come on by. I said we'd be right there.

We hung up, and I went back out to the table. I gathered up everyone including Jamie, and we went out to the car.

"Where are we going?" Jamie asked.

"To see an old friend of mine who knew, and liked, your sister," I replied.

We went back to the same parking garage and across the tunnel. The guard remembered me from earlier in the day and said to go in. We went down the stairs to the backstage and sat by Wally's desk and waited till the show was over. I said to Penny, it was too bad Maria wasn't here, when Donnie Osmond walked by and went up to the dressing rooms.

 Wally came over and look a bit shocked when he saw Jamie, since her and Lisa looked so much alike. I introduced her and took Wally aside. I explained that Jamie lost her job up at Fitzgeralds and was a union crew member. I asked if he could get her into the Flamingo, if possible. He said anything for Lisa's sister, he'd give it a good try, no guarantees, but he'd try. I told him to tell her the news. He did and she started to cry, hugged Wally and then me. My cell phone rang and it was Deacon calling to say their show was ending and they needed to be picked up, I told him we were at the Flamingo and would pick them up in a little while, we had some things to take care of here. He said no problem, and then I asked if he and Maria could go across the street to our hotel and wait in the lobby for us. He said they could do that; I said thanks and hung up.

Most of the stage crew were finished with closing down the show, came over and saw me; it was like I never left. We all shook hands and even hugged a bit. I introduced Penny, Buck and Jamie to everyone. Mark, the sound guy, said he saw Penny on some network show about the incident in Michigan and was honored to meet her. He winked at me. We talked a bit, most the stage crew had worked with Lisa, after I had left, and a few of the guys had stories to tell Jamie. She was thankful to everyone, and I said we had to leave, but would be back one night and we could all go out and party. They all cheered to that, then I took my little band of excited followers and we departed. But not before I thanked Wally.

We drove back to the MGM Grand and I pulled into valet and told them I was just picking up a couple of friends, Deacon and Maria came out with me and piled into the car. I introduced Jamie to everyone and we headed up to Maria's house. Maria said to stop at a party store for refreshments. We got to Maria's place by about 11:30 p.m. and she invited everyone in. She apologized for not having a hot tub, I laughed when she said she had a little wading pool out back we could use. I asked if she was going to stand by and stir up the water. I told her that we saw Donnie Osmond tonight, she swore, and said we weren't allow to go back there unless she was with us. I promised.

I corralled Jamie in the kitchen and told her that I really missed her sister; she was a great, sweet person. She got teary again and I told her to hang on to her memory, I promised I would find out who killed her, even if I had to stay in Vegas till I did. She kissed me on the cheek, thanked me for trying to help get her a job, and then went out to the living room with every one else. I was going out too, but was stopped by Penny.

"I was just coming into the kitchen to get another beer, and I heard what you told Jamie. Are you applying for sainthood?" she smiled.

"I really liked Lisa, and I felt sorry for Jamie, having to lose her sister, and be in deep doo-doo. I like to help people."

"Well, I guess I'll have to give you your sainthood later tonight." she grinned wide, grabbed the beer out of my hand and went back out to the living room. I yelled, "Hey!" but she was out of earshot.

Around 1 a.m. I said I had to take my children home, and poured Penny and Jamie into the car. I dropped Jamie off at Harrahs to get her car, asking if she would be all right, she said she would, and I drove on to the MGM Grand.

We got up to our room, pulled off all our clothes in speedy time, and headed to the bed. We wrestled around for a while, and Penny asked if I felt saint-like yet, I said no, work harder at it, and damn if she didn't.

Penny fell asleep after she canonized me, and I laid there like I usually do in bed. I thought about the day again and couldn't believe Lisa was dead. I had a small crush on her back when we worked together, mostly because she was so cute and lively. She had an innocence about her that made me wonder what she saw in Nicky. I always hear how women go after the "bad boys", but never seem to learn a lesson when they always end up getting hurt. Bad boys are just that for a reason, they don't care about anyone else's feelings. They think only of their own needs and how they can use women to their advantage. Nicky was a womanizer, and he had a streak of good in him that I saw occasionally, but he loved having his way with women. Now the death of Lori Davis was the most immediate concern, and she was another of Nicky's conquests. But even if she was pregnant, was that a reason to kill her, why? Would it make any difference to Nicky, it wouldn't hurt his career if the scandal came out; having two women on a string and one was pregnant. Now days that wasn't so much a scandal. I said I'd worry about it later, turned and cuddled my girl, then tried to go to sleep.

*


  Chapter Seven
---------------

I was up early, didn't sleep much, too many bad dreams about dead women. I wondered if my becoming a P.I. was attracting crime like Penny said. I got on the phone and called Buck, after he answered sleepily, I said good morning. He grunted some obscenity, and said good morning back. I said I would pick him up in about an hour, he told me to hold on, he held his hand over the phone and was talking to Deacon, I supposed. He came back on and asked if Deacon and Maria could drive him there and meet us, so Deacon could wander the convention. Deacon would have Maria's car that way, so they could leave anytime. I said that was a good idea, plus Deacon could watch Penny while Buck explored, too. He liked that, and said they would meet us at the exhibitors entrance just before 10 p.m., I said that worked for me. I told Penny what was happening, and she said that would give us a little extra time to eat breakfast at an enjoyable pace. We went down to the buffet, and had a nice quiet meal. I drove Penny to the convention center, met with the gang and dropped her off.

"What are you going to do today?" Penny asked.

"I'm going back to Metro and talk to Weber about the dead girls, see if I can find out anything. If any of you guys need me, just call." She leaned in and kissed me, and said not to get in any trouble. I said, "Who me?" She went off to get her charges into the center.

I drove over to Metro, and the same officer was on the desk. "Hey, P.I., talk to Trapper lately?" He grinned.

"I did, and he said he was glad he wasn't putting up with you people any more." I smiled wide, he laughed.
 
"Feeling's mutual. You want to see Weber?" he asked. I said I did, if it was possible, and he got on the phone.

Minutes later, Weber popped his head out the door, and waved me in. Detective Sergeant Carter was seated in his office. She asked if Deacon was with me, I said sorry, he was at the convention center exploring. She looked disappointed.

"Richards, I'm glad you came in, I was going to call you. I wanted to see if you had any more news for me on the Lori Davis murder. I'm sure you've been snooping." He smiled knowingly.

I told him about finding out Lori Davis was pregnant, which Carter confirmed from the autopsy. I filled them in on talking to my snitch, about who the father may be, Nicky. Then I told them about the connection with Nicky and Lisa James, a girl murder last year, and a former squeeze of Nicky's, and how her sister thought she may have been pregnant also. I said the coincidence was a bit strong, Carter and Weber both agreed. Carter said that she would look back into the James case, and she'd see what they had on it. I asked if it would be appropriate to be informed on what they found. Weber said that would be no problem, since I was sharing my knowledge with them. He appreciated the cooperation, and I could confer with Carter any time. I knew Carter would prefer to confer with Deacon, so I told her Deacon would be helping me with my investigation on Lisa James' murder, I was working on it for her sister. Carter seemed to perk up to that, and said she looked forward to working with both of us. The woman was so obvious. I told them of my experiences with working for Nick, and a few details about his love life. Weber warned me not to get in too deep, connecting with Nick; he didn't want me to tip his hand. I said I preferred to stay far away from him as possible, besides, I knew enough people who knew him, for me to get details. He liked that, and said he had other business and sent us out.
 
"Detective Carter, I have a feeling that you take an interest in my friend, Deacon?" I said quietly outside the office.

She smiled slightly, "Yes, I do find him interesting."

"Well, he finds you interesting too," I offered. Her eyes grew a bit larger on that. I continued, "You should give him a call, and ask to confer about the case over a coffee, or maybe drinks, if you indulge. I think he'd be agreeable to that."

"I'll do that, thank you for the heads up, Mr. Richards."

"Oh, please, call me Jim."

"Well, call me Lynn, then." She smiled, turned and walked down a corridor, to her office I imagined. Probably rushing for the phone. Poor Deacon. But now I had her on our side, I'm so devious at times it amazes me.
 
I sat in my car in Metro parking and looked through my contact list on my Palm. I found Aaron's number was still listed, glad I didn't clean out my list. Aaron was one of Nicky's personal assistants back when I was there and before Kris Wallace came along and took over. I called him but got a recording saying the number was no longer in service. It was five years, so I guess he wouldn't have it. He wasn't the best for taking care of finances and Nicky fired him for supposedly doing too many drugs. That was stupid, because it was Nicky who was supplying him with the drugs. Aaron was just a bit independent, and Nicky didn't like it, couldn't control him. I drove out, and headed to an animal rental place that Aaron used to work for. They rented animals to shows, and you could get anything from Boa Constrictors to tigers. Anything wild or exotic. I found the building, and then went in the front door working my way through cages of birds, snakes and small predators. The placed smelled like it needed a good hosing down.

"Can I help you?" a voice came from behind a stack of cages with tons of rabbits. A skinny, poorly dressed, pale man came wandering out.

"Yeah, I'm looking for Aaron Goldman; I'm a friend who worked with him back in 2003."

"Wow, man, that's a name I haven't heard in a few years myself. Last I heard, he was working for that chick that does exotic dancing with boas, the real kind." He smiled a toothy grin, missing a few.

"What's the name of the dancer?" I asked.

"She went by Wanda Wicked, over at the Pink Slipper Lounge. It's a strip club." I knew the place, never been there, but knew it.

"That's all you can tell me about him?" I pushed.

"All I can remember, sorry."

I thanked him and left. I, again, sat in my car thinking about that strip club; Buck would want to go with me on that. I remembered back to my younger days working at a design shop in Warren, Michigan. I worked the afternoon shift making the strips for billboard signs, and when we finished for the night, the four of us who worked there, would head down Van Dyke Avenue and hit the strip clubs between 10 Mile Road and Seven Mile. One place in particular we hung out at was the Duchess Lounge. There was this really beautiful, short, blond-haired girl named Pixie, working there. I had the image back in my memory of her, one night she was dancing to "Lady" by Styx. She did this sort of veil dance under a strobe light twirling and spinning as the music got faster and she would do all these acrobatics and it just mesmerized me. I never forgot her or that dance. Every time I hear that song, I think of her. I came out of my trance and drove out of the parking lot.

I decided that it was time to go catch Nicky's show, but incognito, so he didn't know I was there. I wanted to see if he finally changed his act. I could do the damn thing by heart; I heard it six nights a week for months. It was also the same act I saw him do about twenty years ago at a comedy club in Detroit. I guess when you have something that worked, why screw with it. I went back to the convention center and flashed my exhibitor badge and went in. There was a good crowd around Penny's booth. She saw me and got a big smile on her face. I walked up and said out loud in front of the crowd, "Excuse me, Ma'am, may I kiss you?" I grabbed her and bent her over the table, planting a big wet one on her. I let her up, said thank you, and walked away. I had to get her back for the little things she pulled on me. Deacon was off to the side laughing his head off as I came around the crowd. He shook my hand.

"Nice one," he laughed.

"Have you had any calls from a certain detective lately?" I inquired.

"Why yes, Sergeant Carter called me about a drink tonight, around 10, to discuss the case. I think there's more to it than just discussing. I invited her to go to my sister's show, then I would let Maria drive herself home, and I would discuss with Lynn," he smirked.

"Ah, now on a first name basis," I grinned. It never occurred to me that the name Sergeant Carter was the same as the character on the old Gomer Pyle show. I hope she didn't get kidded too badly about it. I didn't want to tell Deacon that I had a bit to do with the date, but she would have gotten around to it eventually. I just pushed it.

"Does Maria know you're meeting up with the hussy?" I asked.

"She does, and I said I'd never speak to her again if she queered the date," he growled.

"Where are Buck and Maria off to?"

"They're exploring the place. Maria's been a bit friendly with Buck since I told her about Lynn and me. I hope she isn't going to do something stupid, I feel sorry for Buck."

I told Deacon about my visit to Metro with Weber and Carter. And my journey to find Aaron, who I explained to Deacon as to his part in this. Buck and Maria were just coming out of the crowd, and I asked Buck if he would like to go visit a strip club tonight. He said he'd be delighted and as we talked I felt a whack to the back of my head. It was Penny with a stack of brochures in her hand.

"If you weren't so cute, I'd have hit you with a chair. Every man out there who saw that wanted to kiss me. Smart ass."

"Well, next time you'll remember not to take a beer out of my hand and walk away with it," I snarled.

Buck piped up, "Jim's taking me to a strip club tonight!" I wished he hadn't done that, but the man was excited. It was almost charming, a big muscular biker having such an innocence about him, but I wouldn't mess with him.

"Oh, now we're going to a strip club? I always wanted to see the inside of one of those," she grinned and pinched my arm. I flinched.

"It's all in the line of duty, purely an investigating trip." I hid my smile and looked serious. She pinched me again. "Ow, cut that out!"

"You were planning on telling me this?"

"Of course, I would never go investigating without my lucky woman." I covered and moved my arms away from her. She giggled.

"Maybe I could learn a few moves from the strippers. We could install a stripper pole back at the house."

My mind wandered a bit thinking about Penny circling a stripper pole. I changed the subject.

"I think tomorrow night we should all go to see Nick North's show, so you can get a feel for him. I need to disguise myself so he won't spot me."

Penny said there was a theatrical make-up booth in the convention that specializes in disguises for actors; we could hit them before we leave tomorrow night. I said great and I said I would get us tickets for tomorrow night. Maria spoke up and said she could get us in free, she knew the guy at the ticket reservation counter and he has a certain number of comp tickets for each show. She said she would call him. I said that would work too, otherwise I'd pay for it. Deacon asked if it would be all right if he invited Lynn to join us. I thought that would be a great idea, keep her interested in Deacon and she could she Nicky in action. I told Deacon it would be fine to ask her.

It was now about 9 p.m. and Deacon and Maria had left around 7 p.m. to go do her show, where Deacon was going to meet up with Carter. Buck was dreaming about Hulk Hogan, who he did talk with again at the show. The Hulk had pulled Buck into his booth and had pictures taken of the two together, Buck even put on the head rag so they looked alike. And he was dreaming of the strip club.

Penny said that her producer was in heaven with three offers to syndicate the show. She said she was nervous about it, I told her she would be great at it. Things had slowed down at the booth, and I said I didn't think it would kill anyone if we left a little early. Penny told her producer she was a bit worn, to please him, and she was going to take off. He said go rest, see her tomorrow, and went off to schmooze some more.

We packed it in and headed out Paradise Road to where the Pink Slipper was. Penny was all excited since she never had been in a strip club before. I had told her of my exploits on the way over and she was impressed that I had seen so many boobies in my life. She asked if she stacked up to any of them, I feared for my life with the wrong answer, so I diplomatically said she had a great rack. That pleased her.

"Why are we going to look for this Wicked Wanda?" Penny asked.

"That's Wanda Wicked, and she knows a guy I had worked with, for Nicky. I need to find that guy, he knew more about Nicky than most people. He seems to have disappeared and I was told he last worked for Wanda. I hope she knows where he's at."

Buck was in the back, "We want to see a Vegas strip club, too."

"Well, Buck, we're here." I announced as we pulled into the drive, and parked towards the side. There weren’t a lot of cars in the lot, guess the economy was slowing down business. We got up to the door, the bouncer said the lady was free, but we had to pay $20 each to get in. I flashed him my I.D. and said we just needed to talk to Wanda, in regards to a murder. He hedged, and then I said I could call in Captain Weber or Detective Carter of Metro, if he needed more convincing. He was silent for a minute, and then he waved us in. I thanked him, he nodded, and then I asked if Wanda was working tonight, he said she was. We entered the dark building, lights flashing and flowing around the ceiling and walls. There were three stages with men seated, all smiling and stuffing dollars in g-strings, as the women wiggled their asses in the men's faces. Penny was holding on to my arm tightly, I asked her to loosen up just a little. She did.

I asked a waitress which girl was Wanda, and she said she'd be on the center stage in five minutes. We went and sat at the stage and the attractive girl dancing smiled at Penny, and came over to shake her boobs at Penny. She shook them fast, and asked if Penny liked what she saw; Penny just laughed and asked "Are those things real?" The girl just stared and moved away. I snickered and Buck guffawed out loud.  

I leaned over and said "I love you."

"This is fun," she said and asked for a dollar; I had a bad feeling why, but gave it to her. She waved it at he girl and she came back over and bent her butt to Penny and Penny shoved it in her thong. She laughed out loud and asked for more dollars. I couldn't stop laughing and gave her all the dollars I had in my pocket. Penny was busy stuffing the money in every place the girl had available. The girl was really getting into Penny now and stood on the counter and shimmied her crotch in Penny's face. Penny started to reach up towards the girl's butt; I grabbed her hand, saying they frown on touching. She said damn. I was wondering about Penny now, the image of a three way popped into my mind. I had to clear that image out of my head when the song ended, and the girl smiled, leaned way over and kissed Penny, on the lips, said her name was Tiffany, then ran off stage. I was sweating a bit just watching the sexual exhibition that just went on before me. I looked at Penny, she was just smiling, I needed to have a long talk with her. Buck was speechless, had no comments, he just looked at Penny with wide eyes.

The lights dimmed and a spotlight came on to the curtain at the back of the center stage. Over the speakers came the voice of the D.J. announcing the arrival of Wanda Wicked, everyone cheered, including Penny. The curtains parted, and there stood a well built female with jet black hair, Goth style make-up, black lips and eye shadow, a tight white bustier, long, white gloves and she was wrapped up in a Boa Constrictor. She ran forward to the center of the stage as the lights danced and played on her gleaming body, did a couple of spins and started to gyrate playing with the snake. She looked well oiled. Billy Idol's "White Wedding" was blaring from the hidden speakers as she and two other dancers, on their own stages, spun, bounced, stretched and exposed to the music.

I pulled out a ten dollar bill and waved it up to her; she crawled over, snake and all. I played a bit with the bill until she was close enough to hear me. "I need to speak to Aaron Goldman, know where he is?" She writhed a bit then said, "You a cop?" I said, "Private." She grabbed the bill and said he was in the back. She moved back and did her thing some more. I leaned over to Penny and Buck and told them I was going in the back to see Aaron. I said for each one of them to keep their hands to themselves and behave. Penny looked disappointed, but said she was enjoying watching. I saw a curtain that girls were going in and out of and headed that way. There was a big burly guy seated close by and saw me heading that direction, he got up and blocked my path. I said to him, I just want to see Aaron, he asked who I was and I told him, he said wait here and went back. A couple seconds later Aaron ran out and excitedly came up.

"Jimmy, damn good to see you! Come on back." We went into the inner sanctum of naked women. I was ready for anything.

*


  Chapter Eight
---------------

The place looked like a locker room, with make-up tables. Aaron led me to a small, closet-sized room in the back, the door had Wanda Wicked printed on it. We went in and he closed the door, told me to sit, and said it was great to see me again.

"Sorry for the cramped room, the other girls don't like snakes, so they put Wanda back here, in her own little room. How you been?" His eyes look glassy, but he still had the friendly face through the scruffy beard. He was a skinny, smallish man, thinning hair and grey eyes that showed years of drug abuse. You know that blank look and drab eyebrows.

"I'm good, playing private eye now, licensed. I thought you might help me. Remember Lisa James?"

He perked up, "Hell, yeah. Too bad what happened to her." His smile dropped.

"Well, I have a suspicion that Nicky was involved with that. Can't prove it yet, but I'm working on it."

He sat back in his chair, just looked at the wall for a bit, and then turned his weary eyes to me, "I know he had something to do with it. Well, not him personally, but he knew about it after the fact. I got people, who talk to people, who know people, and it is said he wanted her out of his life. She was getting too bossy and wanting him to get rid of Sue, but Lisa wouldn't go away. I heard she was with St. Nicholas the night she vanished to the desert. But the cops say he proved he was in California on business. I don't know who is covering for who, I just know that old Nick was involved, but can't prove it."

"I heard she may have been pregnant, any word on that?" I inquired.

"I heard from a hairdresser that she used, she said it was possible," he answered

"Tell me everything you heard from all your contacts, I'll listen."

"Well," he leaned back again, "I heard from one of my associates, he saw them up top of the Stratosphere, having a meal, then Nick wanted to go on that crazy roller coaster up there, but she didn't want to go. They fought a bit, and then left. The valet said they sped out heading north, the last anyone saw her. Cops said they had reliable witnesses and credit card receipts from California saying he was there. My friends here are just waiters and valets; they don't hold much water for proof." He looked a bit pissed.

I asked who his friends were at the Stratosphere and he gave me their names. We talked a bit about old times and how we were doing since, and then Wanda blew in. I said my good-byes to Aaron and went back to my seat. Penny was still bouncing in her chair, and Buck said he had to restrain her a couple of times to keep her from jumping up on the stage. Penny whacked him and gave me a cute little smile. "We really need a stripper pole back home," she said. I said we needed to get out of here, and despite her protests, we left.

It was now after 11 p.m.; I drove Buck back to Maria's house and pulled in the drive. Maria was on the porch, just sitting. We walked up to her and she seemed a bit miffed.

"I don't think Frankie and that woman even stayed for the whole show. I was watching them through the curtain before I went on, and she was just all over him, it was disgusting."

I reminded her, "I thought we agreed that Deacon, I mean Frankie, needed a little romance in his life."

"Yeah, well, she just seems too aggressive for him."

"Maria, he's aggressive enough himself, he can handle it."

Maria told Buck to sit next to her, he did and she put her head on his shoulder. I knew it was time to leave them to other ventures, so I told Penny we should be leaving and before she could say anything I turned her and pushed her to the car.

"You don't have to push. I wanted to talk to Maria a bit," she protested in the car.

"I don't think Maria wants to talk now. She's going to keep Buck happy for a while, if what Deacon said comes true." I smiled.

"What?" she asked. I explained what Deacon said earlier, and how he felt Maria may use Buck to get back at him.

I said, "I don't care what they do, as long as I stay out of the feud that's going to start, and I hope it comes out all right."

Penny said people are crazy.

"Speaking of crazy, we need to have a talk when we get back to the room, about your little assignation with that stripper."

She grinned, "While you were gone, Tiffany came back out and was real friendly with me; she asked if I wanted a lap dance. I was polite and said no, I asked if she liked women, and she said she was bisexual. I said I wasn't, but if I were, she would be someone I'd be interested in."

"Damn, there goes my three-way." I grinned at her.

"You'd really do that?" she demanded, gently grabbing my balls. "If you answer wrong you may loose these."

"I was kidding, you are the only person I want in my bed." I was sweating again.

"Good, don't forget that." She released her grip. "Although, it might be interesting to see what that would be like."

"Please, stop toying with me," I begged, as we pulled into the MGM Grand valet parking.

I think the excitement of the strip club got the better of Penny. She did a little strip for me on the bed and I had to admit later, that was the best sex we've had in a while. Not that sex was mediocre with Penny, but this was especially good. I may have to take her to strip clubs more often. We both fell asleep together after that.

The next morning we both felt a bit sore from the Olympic treatment we gave to our sex life. We took a quick dip in the whirlpool spa and toweled each other off, then after dressing, shot down to get breakfast. I called Deacon and he didn't answer. I looked to Penny and said I was worried; Deacon didn't pick up his phone. She giggled and said, good one for Sergeant Carter. I called Buck and also got no answer, I hoped they didn't kill each other. We finished our meal and drove out to Maria's house and pulled into the drive. There was no car around, I really worried. We found a note on the door, saying Deacon, Buck, Maria and Lynn had all gone to get breakfast and would meet us at the convention center. I was really worried now, what were they up to? Penny and I drove to the convention center and found the four of them looking very friendly, hanging around Maria's car.

"OK, what's going on?" I asked.

Deacon spoke first, "Nothing, we just had a good breakfast and now are waiting to go into the convention to wander for a while."

Lynn Carter looked at me, and just gave a big smile, "I took the day off to spend some time with Frankie."

"Frankie? Are we on friendly terms now?" I asked.

Deacon offered, "We're enjoying each other's company, yes."

"OK, go enjoy your day; I have some snooping to do. Lynn, I may have a few more things to tell you, after my snooping." I gave up on trying to figure out their game.

"Oh, Jim, I found out from the case files that Lisa James was indeed pregnant at the time of her death," Lynn offered.

"That's what I hear. Nick should have used birth control instead of Viagra. Are you going to the show with us tonight?"

She said she was. I said, great, and kissed Penny good-bye and drove as fast away from the bunch of nuts as I could.

I headed over to the boulevard and up to the Stratosphere. I parked and took the elevator up to the restaurant at the top. I asked where I could find Ralph Morse, and was told he was waiting tables in the next room. I went there and sat. After a bit, a waiter came up and I asked if he was Ralph, he said he was. I told him my name, that I was a private investigator, and that I was a friend of Aaron Goldman's, and he had given me Ralph's name. He asked how Aaron was doing and I told him. I asked if he could take a break to talk, he said he had one coming in about a half hour, so I ordered a Pepsi and waited. He came by a bit later and asked me to follow him out to the observation deck. I looked at the height of it all, it seemed like miles down, and asked if we could stay in the lobby. He agreed, sensing my fear of heights. He said many people won't go out to look at the city, because of it.

I asked him if he remembered the night when Nick North and Lisa James came into eat, the night before she turned up dead. He said he was tired of telling the story; he was accused of lying about it by the police, and wasn't going to involve himself in it again. He started to turn, I grabbed his arm.

"There's a sister who is hurting over Lisa's death and I want to bring someone to justice, even if it is Nick North. I just want to know if you saw them here that night."

He looked at me for a minute and said, “Yes. I told the police he was here but they insisted he was in L.A. and maybe I was trying to frame him for the murder. I told them I didn't even know him personally. Why would I frame him? I spent too many days going over it, North paid by cash, so there was no record he was here, and the place was fairly deserted that night, just me and a few busboys that didn't pay any attention. No one else remembers him being here. So I got fucked."

I said I was sorry for that. I asked about the security cameras, he said that North avoided using areas with them. I was really puzzled now. Why would he bother to go out that night with her when he pretended to be in L.A. that weekend? Maybe he hadn't planned on killing her that night, and it just came to a head, so he had to cover his tracks. I thanked Ralph and apologized for bringing it up. I gave him a ten dollar tip for the Pepsi and he went off to work. I stood looking out at the sight of the city I loved. I felt like trying to see how far I could get, opened the door and went onto the deck.

The roar of the roller coaster zipping by scared the crap out of me. I took my time going towards the edge, stopping just before the mesh screen wall preventing jumpers. I looked over and saw an open gate in the mesh; I presumed it was so workers could go out to check the tracks for the coaster. I went over to see if anyone was there, when I felt some one grab me from behind and started pushing me towards the opening. I was frozen looking down at the drop, as the person pushed me through the opening. I was dropping but managed to grab a thin rail under the opening and held on for dear life. Then I did something stupid, I looked down. It seemed hundreds of miles down to me and I grabbed on tightly with both hands and started yelling for help. My arms ached from holding my weight, but terror kept my hand gripped tightly. What seemed like hours went by when I heard a voice over me screaming to hold on. I looked up, it was Ralph, he was trying to reach my hands and grabbed on to my wrist. He pulled up a bit, and then with his other hand he grabbed my arm. I heard another voice overhead and another person was reaching for me. They both pulled me up and back onto the deck. I just laid there sweating, and trying to catch my breath.

"I came back out to tell you something and heard you yelling. Glad I did." Ralph was gasping for air, too. The other person was a tourist who came out to see the sights. I thanked both of them, took out my phone and dialed Weber. I sat for a minute and when he came on I told him someone just tried to kill me. He was upset and asked me if I needed help, I said I was all right, and told him what happened. Just as I was talking to him hotel security came rushing out. I told them to wait, and told Weber I would be in to file a report on the incident, to put it on record. I finished with Weber and told security what had happened. They examined the gate, and after checking with maintenance, said it was open for repairs being made on the tracks. They called to find out where the repair person was, no one knew. I got up wobbly on my feet, and thanked everyone again, and wanted to get back on the ground. Security said they'd look into it, I gave them my card, and I left.

I sat in the car, still in the Stratosphere parking, for about a half hour, trying to get my heart rate and blood pressure down. I took deep breaths and tried not to go into shock. Someone knew I was there to nose around about the case, but whom? Aaron knew I was going to check it out, I told Penny and no one else. Was someone following me? I thought about the person who tried to do me in. I couldn't see him, but he was about my height, didn't feel fat, but from contact with his body, he seemed fit. His one arm that came around my front showed a white shirt sleeve and a strange ring on the pinkie finger. I would know it, if I saw it again. Damn, I was wondering if this was all worth it, after seeing the drop I almost took, looking up above me to where I was hanging off the side. I realized I was at death's door on the tallest structure west of the Mississippi, and I could have been a spot on the asphalt. I had to get my mind off that and headed back to the convention center.

I parked in the exhibitor parking and went in. I got to Penny's booth and she smiled at me, but backed away from the table. I said I wasn't going to embarrass her. I went around the side of the booth where Deacon and Lynn were standing; I took them both to the back of the booth and told them of my experience at the Stratosphere. Deacon looked seriously worried and said, that's it, he was going to be my shadow for the rest of the trip. Lynn said maybe I should back off from investigating, I said that was not an option; I knew it was a danger going in. I said Deacon knew the danger when he jumped in front of that bullet meant for Penny. We do what we have to and take the risks. I asked them not to say anything to Penny about it till I could talk to her. They both agreed. I asked where Buck and Maria were off to.

Deacon frowned and said, "They've been playing kissy face all morning. Damn sister of mine took advantage of Buck and I think they spent the night together."

 I asked, "Where did you spent the night?" and he blushed for the first time since I knew him. He just said none of my business. I looked at Lynn and I could see a blush through her tanned face.

I said, "OK, it's none of my business," and laughed my head off as I walked back around the booth.

Penny caught me by the side of the booth and planted a big wet one on me.

She said "Hi, sailor, in town for the night, I work at a very private strip club and you are invited."

I created a monster. Deacon and Lynn came over by us.

I asked if Maria got us the tickets for tonight's show, and Deacon said she did, and we have to be there by 9:30 to get them. The show starts at 10 and we don't want to miss it. I said I remember what a pain in the ass Nick was to get him to start his show on time, after his opening act would perform. I said we wouldn't miss much.

Buck and Maria came back, and I said I should go find that make-up table. I asked Buck to hang around and keep an eye on Penny. He said he would.

Penny said "I arranged with them to disguise you so I wouldn't even recognize you, which might be interesting for later tonight."

"Oh, I can't get a three way, but you can go to bed with a stranger, ha!" I snorted and went off to find the booth being followed by Deacon and Lynn.  

After a bit of searching I found the booth and introduced myself. One girl, Pam, said she was a fan of Penny's since she used to live in Detroit. It would be a pleasure to make me up. They had me sit in a stylist type chair, and proceeded to spend about an hour changing my face and adding hair. Deacon and Lynn were amazed by the transformation; I thanked the girls, and headed back to Penny's booth. I told Deacon and Lynn to hang back a bit as we approached. There was a small crowd and I walked through, stood for a minute to see if she recognized me, she didn't. I walked up to the table and said loudly, "May I kiss you" and grabbed her, planting a big one on her lips. She broke free and slapped my face, and then she looked in shock when she realized it was me. Deacon came through and told everyone to stand back; he was holding his badge up and saying loudly, I was under arrest for assault. Lynn came up and flashed her badge, too, and proceeded to handcuff me. Penny was laughing her ass off. Buck and Maria had no idea what was going on. They hustled me around back and then Lynn let me out of the cuffs. I asked where she hid the things on her body, she said she had ways. Penny came back followed by Buck and Maria and she studied my face for a bit.

Then she said, "Not bad, sailor, you'll do. I'll see you later tonight."

*


  Chapter Nine
--------------

"Wait a minute, if you want me in this tonight, I get to bring Tiffany," I protested.

"Well, I hope you and Tiffany have a good time, because I won't be there," she rebuffed.

"All right, I'll leave Tiffany out of it, but you’re not getting any of this." Motioning around my new face.

"My loss, I guess I can put up with your old face," she grinned.

"OK, I can leave it on, but you have to go over and get made up as a blonde bomb shell. Fair trade."

She laughed and said, "OK it's a deal, but I get you tonight, tomorrow you get Lola." She pulled her long brown hair up on her head and mimicked sexily, "You like Lola, big boy?"

I tried not to laugh, so I didn't mess up all the rubber glued to my face. "OK, deal."

Our happy couples were enjoying our little theatrics, and then I announced we should get our butts in gear to be on time for the show. We packed up and everyone headed to their respective domiciles to dress up. We agreed to meet back at the MGM Grand, and head out together in the SUV.

Back in our suite, Penny kept looking at me as she got ready. "What?" I asked finally.

"I don't know, its just weirding me out. I'm so used to your adorable face, and now I see this stranger. I'm not sure about you." She continued getting ready.

"I can be very friendly," I said in an evil sort of way. She said "Stop that."

We were ready and got a call from Deacon that they were on the way. Penny and I went down to valet, they brought the car around and we waited. Deacon pulled in, had the valet check the car and they piled in. We drove up the strip toward Fremont Street again. This time we were going inside the Golden Nugget, where Nicky was now performing. We parked and went around to the front entrance and asked where the showroom was. We had to go up a flight of stairs, to where we found the entrance to the theatre. Maria went to the ticket booth, gave them her name, showed I.D. to verify the tickets were for her, and we went in. The usher said to follow him, I stopped him and asked where he was putting us, and he pointed out a table by the stage. I asked him if it's possible to be seated back in the seats. He looked at the seating chart, said he had a block of seats open and took us there. We were close enough, but not so close that Nick would take notice.

We sat and chatted till just about 10 p.m., when the lights dimmed. A voice came from above announcing that we would be entertained by the magical couple, The Fredericks, David and Shana. I was stunned. I leaned over to Penny and whispered, Nicky had an affair with Shana back when I was around. I guess it never came out to David. Penny just mumbled about Nick being a horndog. The Fredericks came out and did their feats of magic; it was the same as I remembered from when they opened for Nick at the Flamingo. They performed longer than the usual 15-20 minutes an opening act got, so I presumed Nicky either wasn't ready, or was shortening his act. Finally, the couple finished and went off to good applause. The music swelled and the lights all dimmed again, the announcer introduced the "star" of the show, Nick North!

I hadn't seen Nick in almost six years, and he looked bad when he waddled out. He gained a lot more weight and he looked tired. Probably from juggling too many women, or doing too many drugs. Nothing changed, including his act. It was like I never left, same tired jokes and silly moves, with vulgar language peppered throughout his act. I knew the jokes were funny to people who may never have seen him before, plus he had good delivery, so people laughed.

He liked to pick out one guy in the front row to make fun of for most of his act. I was surprised no one ever punched him out for it. He found his patsy, proceeded to put the guy down, making him squirm in his seat, blasting him with everything from having a small penis to being bald. That was really funny, because Nick was bald and wore a hairpiece. Nick was now having a stool on the stage to sit on, he never had that before. Every so often a babe in a sexy outfit would bring him a short glass of what probably was water, for all his other vices, Nick didn't drink alcohol. He'd make a couple of jokes about the girl and her sexual prowess, downed the drink and sent her off.  

This all went on for about 70 minutes, about 20 minutes shorter than he used to do. He announced that he'd be up at the theatre entrance to sign autographs, he had photos available for only $20, and fifty percent went to charity. The audience politely applauded his magnificence, and he ran off to the front of the theatre. When I worked for him it was lucky if he gave five percent to charity. The IRS should have looked into his extra income.

The audience was slowly filing out, and we went past the table he had for autographs. There was a guy standing next to the table taking the cash for the photos and keeping everyone lined up. I remember when I used to do that. I stopped my troops and walked back around to the side of the table and leaned over and whispered into Nick's ear, "I'm watching you, North." Then turned and walked away. I went past my friends, so if he was watching, he didn't see them with me. Deacon told me after they caught up; Nick looked panicked after I did that. Penny said that was evil, I said I know. We left the Golden Nugget and wandered around Fremont Street, caught the overhead show again, and then went back to our vehicle.

As we headed back down the strip I asked, "OK, let's hear some opinions."

Lynn spoke first, "I saw a very insecure man, health not good, possibly from drugs, by looking at his eyes. He didn't seem to have much of a desire to entertain, just mouthing words he knew by heart. He kept rubbing his left arm, maybe a health problem, something was bothering him there. He was constantly looking around the room like he was expecting trouble. Which is why Jim's little stunt may have really given him something to worry about." She smiled and looked to Deacon.

"I concur, I thought he was funny, but most the jokes were old and well used. He used vulgarity and gay bashing a bit too much. Didn't need that, but I think he wouldn't be as funny without it. I'm glad we didn't pay the $70 per person to see the show." He offered his opinion.

Penny just said, "He sucked."

"Would you care to elaborate?" I questioned her silence.

"I just didn't like him or his show. Not because I know what a bastard he is, but just my first time impression on seeing him. He looked pathetic, and as Lynn said, mouthed his lines with no energy. If he was a guest on my show, I would have asked him to leave, and had the engineers erase the tape."

"OK, well, that's a ringing endorsement for abortion," I joked. Penny said, you got it.

Buck said he thought the guy was a stoner and loved the jokes. I said that Buck would love that humor and had no taste at all. He gave me a Bronx cheer with his tongue. "Hey, I liked Cheech and Chong, and Richard Pryor. They were stoners and angry comedians," he defended. I said he was right, I apologized for saying he had no taste, he did.

Maria said she agreed with Penny. She didn't like him; he was too macho acting, too male. He was not as good as Richard Pryor, because Pryor was edgy, to the point and topical. This putz was old school.

"OK, votes in from all precincts, he loses the race. Now we have to find out if he kills in real life like he does on stage." I thought about my next move, I had an idea that needed Lynn's cooperation. I would talk to her later.

We got back to the MGM Grand and Penny invited everyone up, she said she didn't want to be alone with the stranger next to her. I grinned and laughed evilly. She said, "Stop that," and whacked me.

 We got to the room and everyone made themselves comfortable. I called room service again, and ordered the same as last time, but added some snacks. The refreshments and food came fast, and everyone helped themselves. Penny insisted I remove the make-up; it was too weird for her. I took a bit of time and lots of cold cream to get the gunk off. I came out and we sat and discussed the show, I filled everyone in on Nick's affair with Shana Frederick.

"I came by Nick's house one day to pick up mail and his bills; he was in his work room playing with a video editing program. He had video of a girl getting undressed from a swim suit. The video was pretty crappy, but I looked closer and discovered it was Shana. Nick had taken video of her through a two way mirror in the bathroom by the pool. He was editing the thing to take individual pictures from the video. Later, I heard him bragging to a friend about having a fling with her." I just shook my head in disgust. "For years I felt like emailing David Fredericks about his wife being violated and unfaithful."

Lynn said if I had proof of that video taking, we could at least put him behind bars for a while.

Everyone was quiet. I looked at Lynn, asking her if I could talk to her. She said sure and we went to the kitchen.

"I have an idea, if you agree, great, if not, well, I'll think of something else." I said.

"Shoot, I can only say no." She smiled.

"Well, you're already investigating Lori Davis's murder and now have information that she was involved with Nicky. Let's go visit him so you can question him about his relationship. I can watch his reactions and maybe pick up some thing he might lie about."

"How you going to do that, be there while I question him?" she asked.

I held up my Fujifilm camera and showed her the picture I took of my disguise before I removed it. "If Penny didn't recognize me, how would he after six years?"

She said she was planning on checking him out, just wasn't involving me. I said Deacon could go with us, just introduce him as Officer DeAngelo, you don't have to say from where, I can be a civilian advisor assigned to the case. Nick isn't very smart; we could trip him up easily. I gave her my biggest smile.

"You really want this S.O.B. don't you?"

"I have a commitment to a nice girl to find out what happened to her sister." I smiled wider.

"OK, but only if your make-up looks really good. I don't want him to yell entrapment, knowing you're a witness to his past crimes."

"You got it, Dick Tracy," I smiled.

"Does that make you Fearless Fosdick?" she smiled back.

"I don't think the swiss cheese bullet holes would look good on me. Does that make Penny my Prudence Pimpleton?" I joked.

She burst out laughing at my knowledge of the comic strip characters. "OK, Fearless, you get made up to my approval and we will go interrogate your arch enemy, Evil-Eye Fleegle." She laughed and gave me a hug, just as Penny walked into the room.

"I knew I couldn't trust either of you to be alone with each other. Now I’m going to have to run off with Deacon.”

Lynn laughed and said, "You do and I'll have to shoot you."

Lynn went out to the main room, and I told Penny I would need another makeover by her friends, tomorrow. She asked why and I told her, reassuring her that Lynn would be there with her big gun, along with Deacon and his smaller but potent gun. She asked if I would have my gun, I said yes, but I doubt I would have to fire it. She gave her blessing, and said she would take me personally to the make-up wizards. She said she was going to have them make me look like Brad Pitt, I said that's wishful thinking and damn near impossible.
 
The suite phone rang around 12:30 and Penny answered, listened for a minute and said, send her up. I was curious as to who 'her' was, Penny said you'll see. About 10 minutes later there was a knock on the door, I open it up to find Jamie and Wally, and the whole crew from the Flamingo. I was a bit stunned. They all yelled, "Hi Jimmy" together and piled in the room. Introductions were given all around, and they had brought refreshments with them, enough for three stage crews. Jamie hugged me and said that Wally got her into the Flamingo, on the day shift working for the afternoon magic show they had there. I congratulated her and gave a thumbs up to Wally, as he stood watching us from across the room. He gave me that big mustache smile I remembered him for. We all partied for another couple of hours and I said they all had to go; the working people had to work tomorrow, not like those lazy stage crews. I got a lot of boos and cat calls and everyone lined up at the door to go. I shook each and everyone's hand as they filed out. Jamie stopped and kissed my cheek and went out.

"I feel sorry for Jamie, being involved with that band of cutthroats," I lamented. Deacon, Lynn, Buck and Maria said their good nights and depart also.

Penny went over and kicked on the whirlpool and we stripped down, crawled in, and rested back with my arm around her. The warm, bubbly water felt so good on our tired muscles. I said that this has been one crazy week so far. She agreed. I said I had something to tell her, and I wanted her to just listen and not react till I was done. She looked up to me, with her big hazel eyes, and asked, what? I told her about my incident at the Stratosphere, she jumped up and turned to me.

"You dumb shit. If you had been killed, what would I do?" She started to cry and hit my chest a few times.

I grabbed her and pulled her to me, "I wasn't killed. I had you in my head the whole time I hung there, thinking, I couldn't lose you now. It made me hold on till help got there. Fate wasn't ready for us to part."

"I want you to live for me. I understand your need to do what you're doing, and I won't stop you, but I'll never speak to you again if you get killed." She realized what she had said and started to giggle. I laughed and said I would be very careful from now on.

*


  Chapter Ten
-------------

Penny and I spent the night like it was the last we would have. I told her not to use up all her energies in one night; we had so many more to go. She threatened me, saying we'd better have. We slept well the rest of the night.

Next morning the phone rang, the front desk said there was a police car, in the valet parking, looking for me. I said they could send the officers up. I jumped up and started to get dressed quickly, yelling to Penny that the cops were coming for me. She looked shocked, and then realized I was kidding. After a few minutes, there was a knock at the door. I went and opened it; there stood Detective Sergeant Carter, in full uniform, and her sidekick, Deacon, in civilian clothes, looking official, but no patches. They had left Buck and Maria in the car, said they wanted to have some fun rousting us out of bed, then said they'd see us at the convention center and left. I said to Penny, this hotel is going to start wondering what we are up to.

I went to put on the rest of the suit I was going to wear today, for my venture to Nicky's domain. Penny and I left the room and went to grab a quick breakfast at the buffet, then went out to the valet, got the car and drove up to the convention center. We gathered our friends and entered the hall. The show hadn't started yet, another 20 minutes and the doors would fly open and all the lovers of media would flock in. Penny led me to the make-up people and explained we had a quest; we needed the most perfect face that would fool anyone. The girls took on the challenge, and while Lynn, Deacon, Buck and Maria stood by, they shaped a new me. Penny had gone back to her booth and said to come by later to see if I could fool her. She did warn me not to try and sneak a kiss from her or she'd knock the make-up off my face. I took the threat seriously.

About 45 minutes later, they finished. I stood up and Lynn came over to examine me. She smiled and said, "Do I know you, sir."

"I feel like robbing a bank and smiling at the security cameras."

We went back to Penny's booth and the gang waited at a distance. I approached the counter and started to ask a few questions about her show. I was good at changing my voice, so she answered my questions without flinching. I finally said I loved her and would she sleep with me.

She stared at me for a minute, and then said, "OK, just don't tell my boyfriend."

I waved to my troops and they came up. Everyone marveled at the mastery of the artists with rubber and hair. I looked like a college professor with the beard they gave me, but would pass for a forensic pathologist. I said we must now go conquer the dragon. Buck and Maria were going to hang with Penny till we got back; I thanked Buck for watching her.

On the way to the patrol car, I asked Lynn why the uniform. She said she didn't usually wear it as part of her homicide duties, although she liked to present herself as professional as possible when interrogating a suspect. Besides, it might intimidate him a bit. I looked at Deacon and said, "Nice threads," he just grinned. He had his service revolver in its holster, and his Clinton Township badge clipped over his belt. I had my Glock under my jacket; we were all packed for bear.

I gave directions to the gated community that Nick lived in down by Henderson. I remembered it from when I first arrived here; I stayed at Nick's house, before I had a car. I finally bought a used, fifteen year old Cadillac sedan, and got an apartment closer to the strip.

On the way, I told them a few things they should know about Nick. He had a huge safe in a hidden room under his stairs where he would stash away his cash from his photo sales. There was a pool in the back, and he had an office in the house, just off the pool. There was a bathroom off the pool also, where he took the videos of Shana. I told Lynn the two way mirror in the bathroom was next to the door going into the office. I didn't know if it was still there, it had been six years ago. She said she would try to find out if it was still there. I said Nick would probably be in his pool around this time of day, he usually was.

Deacon told us he talked to Maria about Lori Davis, to get an idea of what she was like, a little about her life that Maria may know. Deacon went over a few facts about Lori with us, so we'd have our story straight. Lori grew up in the Midwest, took dance lessons most of her life and moved to Vegas about six years ago. She lived alone in a house her wealthy parents bought for her, and auditioned for the show. She got the job and the rest is history. Maria said Lori never mentioned about Nick, she assumed it was mostly to keep their affair under wraps.

Lynn told us she'd ask the questions, but if we felt we had something to contribute, to speak up. She set down some ground rules in case something bad happened. If things got out of hand, we were to back off and let her handle the situation, unless she was in trouble. She smiled and unofficially deputized us. We arrived at the gates to Nick's community, and drove up to the guard shack. A man in his early fifties, needing a shave, sloppily dressed in a uniform that needed pressing, stepped out of the shack.

"Good morning, Officer," the guard was pleasant. "May I ask what you need here?"

"We're here to see Nick North, so could you please open the gates," Lynn said coolly.

"Do you have an appointment?" The guard wasn't budging to open the gate. Lynn was now not so cool.

"I don't need an appointment, I have a badge. So open the damn gate,"  she spit out.

"I'll call ahead to see if Mr. North is in." The guard hedged.

"Listen, rent-a-cop, if you don't open the gate, I'll call for back-up and have them haul you in for questioning in a murder case, and for obstructing justice. Do you want to play that way, or are you going to open the fucking gate."

He reached in the door way and hit the button for the gate. It slowly creaked aside and Lynn politely said, "If you reach for that phone I'll come back here and rip your lungs out, you understand me?" He nodded his head, she said thank you and roared in. I was laughing in the back seat, Deacon was admiring his girl. "Don't mess with me," she snarled.

I directed her to the house and we pulled in the drive. I said we could try the front door, but it would be a better idea to go to the back since he probably would be in the pool. We exited the patrol car and walked up the drive towards the back. I saw that Nicky had put up a high privacy fence; we'd have to stand up on our toes to see in. Deacon was the tallest, followed by Lynn, then the runt at five-ten, me. Deacon said he could see that Nick was in the pool cleaning it with a vacuum pole. He knocked on the fence and we were greeted by a new addition, Dobermans. Two of them hit the fence and were barking, slobbering, and growling to beat hell. Deacon and Lynn jumped back and Lynn had her hand on her gun. I could hear Nick from the other side yelling for someone named Deano to come get the dogs. After a few minutes, the gate opened and an older man of Mexican decent smiled at us, then saw Lynn's uniform and frowned. Lynn said we needed to see Mr. North.

Deano looked to Nick and announced that the police were here. I could hear him cussing and said to let them in. We walked in and I stayed behind the two of them so the focus was on them and not me. He looked just like I remembered him when he would clean the pool in the mornings. He doted on that pool more than anything, I presumed because his overweight body felt lighter in it.

"What did the fucking neighbors complain about now?" he bellowed.

Lynn spoke, "We have no complaints, Mr. North. I'm detective Sergeant Carter; this is Officer DeAngelo and our civilian advisor, Mr. Richards." She used my real name so she could say she didn't mislead Nick, he didn't notice the connection, and then continued, "We just want to ask you a few questions about an acquaintance of yours.”

He started to head for the stairs leading out of the pool, I whispered to Lynn, "He'll be naked." Deacon heard me, moved forward and saw that Nick was indeed naked and grabbed a towel from a nearby chair, and tossed it to him. He grumbled thanks. Wrapping the towel around him, he came to us, but not very close.

"So, who's the acquaintance I'm supposed to know?" he snarled like we were interrupting his day.

Lynn just said, "Lori Davis."

Nick almost dropped the towel, but grabbed it again and looked a bit foggy. He recovered, "Don't know her."

"Mr. North, why do you say that when we have witnesses who have seen you and Lori together."   

He hemmed a bit then said, "Oh, Lori, I thought you said Loni. Sorry, water in the ears." He sat on the lawn chair and crossed his legs. Lynn moved away from the view of his crotch he was exposing, and asked him to cover himself. He smiled and did.

"Did you know she was murdered two nights ago?" Lynn asked.

He tried to look stunned, and said, "Why no, how'd it happen?"

"Stabbed. Where were you last Saturday night around 1 a.m.?"

"Well, lets see, I had finished my show and went with some friends to the Bellagio for food and then we all went home around midnight. I was here."

"Any one see you here after midnight?"

"Just my housekeeper, Deano. We sat and talked in my rec room till about 3 a.m. watching a movie. Then I went to bed."

I whispered to Lynn, "Alone?"

"You went to bed alone, Mr. North, I've heard you have quite a harem. Didn't spend the night with anyone then?" Lynn picked up on my suggestion.

"I'm not the playboy people make me out to be. I do have my quiet moments," he smiled widely.

"I've been told you have a girlfriend in California, is that true?" Lynn questioned.

"We broke up a long time ago. That's old news now," he said derisively. "I'm presently engaged to a very nice woman. She's a pit boss at the Golden Nugget."

Lynn asked if she could verify with Deano about the night in question. He smiled and said sure, and called Deano again.

I came forward a bit and asked, "Excuse me, Mr. North, do you have a rest room I could use, please?"

He didn't bother looking at me, just waved to the doors at the back of the house saying, "Sure, through that door. Just leave your dollar." He laughed at the old joke. I said thanks, and looked back to Lynn as I went through the door. She was smiling.

In the bathroom I checked the oval mirror on the wall, it was still fastened to the wall. I carefully opened the door that I knew led to the back office, no one was there and looked up to the wall where the mirror was attached to the other side. There was a picture hanging there, I moved it and found the hole peeking through to the bathroom. It was still there. Bastard didn't change it. Probably had a good collection of private smut of his female friends on his computer in his work room. I noticed the office was cleaned out, the office computer was gone as well as the file cabinets. Backing out of the office, I closed the door, surveyed the bathroom, snooping around the sink and medicine cabinet and then went back out to the patio. I nodded to Lynn and smiled.

Deano was on the patio now telling Lynn how he and Mr. North sat every night, talking while watching a movie. He was with him Saturday night. The guy wasn't the most convincing liar.

Lynn thanked Deano and he skittered off. "Mr. North, were you aware that Lori Davis was pregnant?"

He was quiet for a moment and said, "No, I didn't know. I do know she had a number of men in her life; she was a bit of a tramp. I guess that's what I liked about her, no commitments," he snickered.

"Mr. North, would you submit to a DNA test, to help determine who the father was?" Lynn threw it at him.

"Only if you have a warrant. Otherwise, no." He was starting to sweat a bit. "Do you have anything more to ask, I'd like to get back to cleaning the pool."

"Just a couple of things, you did know Lisa James, correct?"

"I did, and I proved I was in L.A. when she was murdered. I had nothing to do with that." He was really getting agitated now.

"Did you know Lisa was also pregnant?"

"No, I didn't, and that has nothing to do with me either, so I think you people should leave now, unless you have something to arrest me for. Otherwise, I'm calling my lawyer." He stood and stepped forward a bit. Deacon moved between him and us and just gave him his stony look. Nick backed up.

Deacon moved aside as Lynn was saying, "We will get that warrant for DNA, Mr. North. We will be back." She turned toward the gate and started to walk out.

Nick muttered, "Go fuck yourself." Not loud, but Lynn heard him. She wheeled around and came back to him, almost in his face.

"What was that Mr. North? You have something more to say? I'm not sure I heard you, but it sure sounds like you told me to fuck myself. Not a good way to start my day, I don't like being pushed, you will find that out." She just glared at him; he stared at her with bloodshot eyes.  

Lynn led us out the gate and back to the car. Once we were on the road I said that the two way mirror was still there and he most likely would have video on his computer. Lynn said she probably would be able to get a warrant to search the house based on that info, after all, Nick did give you permission to enter the bathroom. She smiled and said they'd also get the fat fuck's DNA.

I said "I may be able to speed that up a little," I took out a toothbrush in a zip lock bag, "I always carry a few bags in case and while I was in the bathroom I found it on the sink, next to his extra hairpiece. I also got a piece of tape off the hairpiece for comparison." I said, producing a second bag. She grinned at me then she pulled out her cell phone and dialed a number. After a bit, she asked someone named Morrie if he had fluids from the baby of Lori Davis for DNA comparison? She smiled, asked if we could get a quick DNA test, said thanks and hung up. All good to go, she said.

I asked if we could stop at a bank for minute, Lynn just laughed and said not a chance. We did stop at a Sonic Burger and got lunch. I always love the Sonic burgers and onion rings, something I missed back in Michigan. Deacon said he heard they were building a Sonic in Mt. Clemens, I gave a little cheer. We sat in the car eating and talking.

"I saw so many "tells" he was making, he had lied a number of times during your questioning. Nicky would be so lousy at poker," I said. "I remembered that stupid look he would make when he wasn't sure what was going on, and the fake laugh, when he thought he was being funny."

Deacon offered, "He said Lori was a tramp, but Maria said she was seriously Catholic and never mentioned any other men. I'll double check with Maria on that."

Lynn agreed, "I never worked with him or even saw him before last night's show, but even I could tell he was covering up. I think we may have our killer, just need to prove it. I'd like to get Deano into interrogation, just to stir him up. May just pick him up later, and do that." She went quiet for a minute, and then said, "Hell, I'm going to do it now. Fuck myself, he says. We'll see who fucks who." She got on the phone and called, she listened, then said, "Warren, Carter here, get the nearest car ASAP to Henderson to go pick up a housekeeper named Deano, as a material witness in a murder case, for further interrogation. If he, or Nick North, gives you any trouble threaten him with INS. Oh, and don't let the gate guard give you any shit. You have my permission to beat the crap out of him."  She laughed and gave him the address and said to call her when he was settled in. "I just hate myself at times." She smacked Deacon's knee and laughed. She looked at me, smiled and offered, "I'll take you to a Wells Fargo bank, I never liked them anyways. Just be sure to smile at the camera."

*

  Chapter Eleven
----------------

Deano was sitting in interrogation room three, fiddling with his rosary. He looked around the room nervously; sitting next to him was a man in an expensive suit. Lynn asked Officer Warren who the fancy boy was, Warren said North's lawyer.

"Ah, just what we need. Did you have any trouble bringing him in?" Lynn in enquired.

"Just North, he was raising a stink, we threatened to arrest him for obstructing an officer in the duty of his job, he bought it and shut up."

"Good, I hope he's sweating it out," she smiled and told Deacon and me to go to the next door, it was the observation room. We entered and I saw Deano and the lawyer and said, "Just like watching TV." Lynn entered the interrogation room; Deacon said "Only the actors are better looking here."

Lynn sat across from Deano and didn't acknowledge the lawyer. She said the conversation was being video recorded, was that all right with Deano, he nodded. She asked "Were you given your rights, not that you are under arrest, just a formality?" He nodded again.

She opened the file folder in front of her and picked up the one sheet of paper in it. "Not much here, Deano. It says that your real name is Julio Hernandez, you're from Morelos, Mexico, and you've been in the country for two years. What I don't see is a visa or work permit here. You've been here illegally all this time? Didn't North bother to get you at least a work permit?"

Deano fiddled his rosary all the more, and the lawyer said to get to the point.

"The point is Mr. Lawyer, he's an illegal alien, and Nick North, along with you are harboring an illegal alien. That's not the point why you are here, but piss me off and I'll somehow make it a point." Lynn sat back and went expressionless. Deacon muttered to me, she's good.

She continued, "I just want some truthful information and maybe we can see about getting some help for Deano's immigration status. OK, Mr. Lawyer?"

"I'm just here to protect my client's interest," he spoke.

"Who, Deano or North? Who is your client, Mr. Lawyer?"

"My name is Potter, please use it. I'm here at Mr. North's request to be sure Deano gets his due justice."

"Gee, we stopped torturing suspects when President Obama rallied against it. Your client will get his due justice." She smiled. Now turning her attentions to Deano, "Do you speak English well?"

Deano nodded his head and said, "Si, I mean yes."

"Good, now how's your memory? Do you remember last Saturday night after Mr. North got home around 11 p.m., remember that?"

He nodded and said "Yes."

"Or was it after midnight like Mr. North said?"

He looked confused and said "Yes."

"What time did he get home, Deano?"

Deano stuttered, "I think it was midnight, yes."

"Or maybe he got home after 2 a.m., could that have happened?

"No, he and I sat watching a movie on TV after midnight." Deano said almost like reading from a script.

Lynn pushed, "What was the name of the movie, Deano?"

"I don't remember the name. It was a western with John Wayne," he stammered.

I was checking my Palm TX program that had downloaded listings of TV shows recently and I found a John Wayne western, but it was on Sunday night, not Saturday. There was no movie on any channels Saturday night. I told Warren and he went around to the interrogation room door, knocked and went in. He whispered in Lynn's ear for a minute then left.

"So, you watched John Wayne on Saturday night with Mr. North?"

He nodded. She continued, "Do you know what it means to lie to an officer of the law. I'm not very friendly when I'm lied to. I'm sure you may have been confused on which night the John Wayne movie was on. Saturday or Sunday?"

"I think it was Saturday, Mr. North doesn't work on Sunday's and he was gone all night then."

"Well, Deano, my sources say there was no movie on Saturday night late. So was North really home then, or are you lying to me."

"Yes, he was home Saturday night late," he paused, "He was with a lady." He went quiet.

"Who was it, Deano?"

"I don't know her name, Mr. North sent me to my room when they came in, he wanted privacy," he spoke quietly.

"Mr. North told you to lie about being alone with you?"

He quietly said "Yes."

"What time was this when they came in?"

"About 11:30 p.m., they left again around 12:30."

"Just before Lori Davis was murdered."

"I don't know anything about that," he said in panic.

"Did Mr. North have any blood on his clothes when he came back?"

"I didn't see any. He came back in without me noticing."

Looking to the lawyer, "I think you'd better have your client come in for a talk, before I send a squad of men to bring him in. Oh, and I now have the warrant to search his home, I have men heading there, as we speak, to do so." She motioned to the mirror; Warren took the sign and went out to send the men.

The lawyer just sat there stony faced. Lynn looked at Deano, "I have a few friends who may be able to help you stay in the country a bit longer, but you'll have to answer to INS eventually. Maybe my friends can work something out." He thanked her. "Do you have a place to stay, away from North?" He said he had some relatives in town, he would need his belongings though. Lynn said she would have an officer take him to get his things and drop him at his relatives. He thanked her. Lynn went out of the room, talked to an officer about taking care of Deano and then gathered us. She said she wanted to be in on the search, so we left.

When we got to the gate, the guard opened it without questions. We drove to the house just as officers were escorting Nick to a patrol car. Lynn said we'd deal with him later. We went in by the side door, near the laundry room. Lynn asked if they found any blood stained clothes and they said they hadn't. CSI had arrived and Lynn asked them to look particularly for blood drops or stains anywhere in the house. Lynn asked where the computer was and I took her to Nick's work room. Lynn handed Deacon and I rubber gloves. I sat at the keyboard and hit a couple of keys bringing the computer to life. I opened up the explorer and did a search for videos. The list was long. I opened up a few that looked promising but came up short of anything suggestive. Lynn said to keep digging, I did. Lynn and Deacon wandered around the house and were standing in the front vestibule when the door opened and a man walked in.

"You are?" Lynn asked.

"Kris Wallace, Mr. North's personal assistant, what's going on?" he asked.

I heard him say his name and came out to see. I never met with Wallace, just heard about him. Lynn identified herself and asked Wallace if he knew of Nick's whereabouts last Saturday night. Wallace said he last saw Nick at his show and after it was over, Nick left.

"Did he leave with anyone in particular?" Lynn asked.

"He left with a number of friends; they usually go out to eat after a show," he answered.

"About what time was it they left?" Lynn was curious about the timeline now.

"Well, his show ended around 11 p.m. that night, they start early on Saturdays, and I didn't see him after that." Wallace seemed to be gathering his thoughts.

"How many people were with North?"

"Oh, about five or six," he offered.

"I'd like the names of those people if you don't mind. Officer DeAngelo here will write them down, and the people's locations would be helpful too."

"I may remember a couple, but everything was happening so fast. I'll try." He seemed hesitant to offer names.

Deacon took him to the family room to get the information from him.

I said, "He saw them leave at 11 to go eat, but Deano said he came in with the woman around 11:30. I'm guessing they didn't go eat."

"Or Wallace is lying about who left with whom, maybe covering for the woman, or knew he left with Lori Davis." She went into the family room and I followed.

Kris Wallace was standing next to Deacon and Lynn asked him to sit, she had a few questions to ask. He looked at his watch and said he really didn't have the time. Lynn said to make time or he could go down to the precinct and answer there. He hemmed a bit then sat on a foot rest.

"First, do you know Lori Davis?"

Wallace really looked distracted, and answered, "No."

"Oh, come on now, Wallace, North already admitted to seeing Davis. You're his personal assistant and you don't know his comings and goings."

"I'm not privy to his love life," he snapped back.

"Bullshit," I spoke up.

He looked at me, and said, "I beg your pardon?"

"I worked for Nicky back in 2003, doing your job, just before you took over. I knew every female that he hooked up with. You're saying he didn't parade them around you. That's crap. You aren't doing your job if you didn't know everything he was up to, that's in your job description."

He looked at me, I still had the make-up on, but he never saw me back when I quit.

"I don't know you," he said quietly.

"Jim Richards, I trained Lisa James to do my job at the Flamingo. I never trained you for anything, I heard you just took over and ran it your way."

"Ah, Jim, yes, I heard about you. Well, I guess Nick couldn't trust anyone with his love life after you left," he smirked.

"Bullshit." I said again. "You knew about Lisa James! You had to have known they were sleeping together. Not much of a stretch to figure that out. You knew about Sue in California, and had to be quiet about Lisa when she came to town." I was fuming now. "Don't think you can sit there and lie to us, it won't cut it." I walked away before I could punch him. I could see why Jamie said he was a bastard.

"Well, I'm saying I don't know about this Lori woman," he reiterated.

Lynn asked, "Do you work out of this house, in an office here?"

He hedged again, "Yes, I do."

"Well, we have a search warrant for all Nick North's personal items, so Officer Deacon will follow you to get his planner or schedule book, how ever you kept him organized. I guess you'd have to leave holes in it for his love life."

Now he was sweating. "Look, I do what I'm told. It's my skin when I screw up; he isn't the nicest person to work for."

"That's the one truth I've heard come from you," I said from across the room.

He pointed to me, "He knows what a prick Nick is. I was warned to keep quiet about certain things that go on around this house. Nick has some not so nice people coming and going." He got wide eyed and shut up. Then, "I've said all I'm going to say."

"I don't think so." She called to an Officer standing guard at the front door and he came over. "After this man brings us the books we asked for, take him to the precinct and have him wait in an open interrogation room. Oh, and let Nick North see he's there."

Wallace really looked spooked when he heard that last statement. They went off and I came back over to Lynn. "Sorry I blew my stack, he just pissed me off."

"Quite all right, you definitely stirred him up. We've had a busy day and it's not over yet." She went out to check on the progress of the CSI.

I called Penny and asked how she was doing. She said, "Good, Maria and Buck are still playing kissy face, I'm going to hose them down soon. My producer has a number of offers for my show and I haven't had a kiss all day," she chuckled.

"I better not hear you've had any kisses. I've had a busy day too. Listening to all kinds of confessions and lies, I'll tell you about it all later. After I kiss you a good number of times." We smooched on the phone and then hung up.

I went back to the computer, opened a few more files, and found a couple of database files. I tried to open them but they were password encrypted. I remembered a couple of passwords Nick used in the past, so took a chance and tried a couple of them. I got the third one to open up the file, I sat and read it. I called out to Lynn and she came into the room. I showed her the file; it was an accounting for cash income from sources unknown, just amounts and days the cash was received. The totals for all the months listed ran into the millions. She said it was something to ask good old Nick about, maybe drug related. She asked where the safe was that I mentioned earlier and I took her to the huge painting on the wall under the stairs. I slid the thing sideways and it opened exposing a small room. The safe was still there, it stood about five feet high.

"You know the combination?" she asked.

"Hell, no. I don't think anyone but Nick knows that."

"If he doesn't cooperate, we'll just have to get someone who can open it."

"May as well call that person, Nick won't cooperate. It's covered by the warrant isn't it?" She agreed and pulled out her phone and called their safe cracker in.

"He's a reformed safe cracker, works for us now, we'll know soon enough," she smiled.

Deacon brought the planner back to us and we sat in the work room looking it over. There were a number of trips listed to Arizona made by Wallace, I said Arizona is where Nick got this drug supplies from, the place he sent Lisa to. There were a number of meetings scheduled with someone named Fritz, about four meetings done this month alone, one a week. There were notes and appointments with PR people and interviews with radio shows. Nothing really ground shaking other than the Arizona connection.

Lynn's phone rang, she answered. She listened and hung up. "Well, CSI did a quick run on the DNA in their lab and it's not Nick's. Damn, that kind of sucks." She got her phone back out and called the lab again, she asked them to look up a case from a year ago, Lisa James, murdered by stabbing and she was pregnant, and see if they can dig up some DNA on her fetus. She listened and hung up.

"If it wasn't Nick's baby, then why did she tell the neighbor it was? Trying to impress her maybe?" She asked no one in particular. "We'll keep this info on the QT. Need to know only. Let's make him sweat a while. I'll have a tech swab him for DNA when we get to the precinct, and mention of our advanced testing will just go away for now." We all agreed.

Lynn's safe cracker got there and laughed at the ancient safe before him. He said he could open it with a paper clip. Lynn asked him to just open it, he did. We all stood there and marveled at the stacks of money the safe held. Lynn had two officers stand guard while a third inventoried the contents. She pulled out a steel box that had papers in it for deeds to the house and his cars, life insurance policies and other important documents of a person's life. The officer announced that there was just over two million dollars contained in the safe. The money was bagged and tagged and Lynn put the officers personally responsible for it. In Vegas that was chump change, but it was still worth killing for. The CSI had finished their investigating, would have some results by the following morning, and departed. Lynn had the house locked up and sent everyone back to the precinct, along with the money. Which she said the IRS would be interested in, so she called a friend of hers, a local IRS agent and explained the situation to him. He said he'd meet her at the station for more information tomorrow.

We got back to the precinct and into interrogation. We were told that Nick and his lawyer were fuming; Nick needed to go get ready for his show tonight. Lynn said we might as well let him stew for a bit, and go question Wallace. Deacon and I took our place in observation as Lynn entered interrogation room two. Wallace was fidgeting in his seat, Lynn just sat looking at him.

"I didn't do anything. I am expected to take care of Nick's business and not to stick my nose in his private affairs, honestly!" he wimpered.

"Saturday night, who was Nick with?" she demanded.

"Nick left the theatre alone around 10:45 and said he had a date, if anyone asked, I was to say he was with a few friends. I don't know who he hooked up with after. I closed up his dressing room and went home by myself. I don't give a rat's ass who he bangs, as long as it doesn't affect my paycheck." He went silent for a minute. "I knew he was seeing Lori, she would be at his house in the morning when I got there to pick up his mail. Nick was supposed to be engaged to some dealer at the Golden Nugget and I resented his treatment of women. But that's all I know about Saturday night, I just assumed he would be with Lori that night, but I can't verify that."

Lynn still sat without saying anything. She stood and thanked him for the info and to stay available for any further questions. She left the room and Wallace just sat there with a shocked look on his face. Lynn came into observation and said to us, lets go fry the big fish.

*

Chapter Twelve
----------------

Deacon and I went back into observation as Lynn went in to the interrogation room and sat across from Nick. He was scowling and his lawyer was whispering in his ear.

Lynn sat for about a full minute just staring at the two men. Nick was fidgeting and wiping his face with his hand. He finally spoke, "What?"

Lynn smiled and said, "You lied to me, Nick. You lied about being alone watching a movie with Deano. Why'd you do that Nick?"

"I was protecting a woman. She's married and she doesn't want her husband to know. Simple as that," he smirked.

"What's her name, Nick?"

"I'm trying to protect her, I'd rather not say," he said defiantly.

"Does the name, Shana Fredericks, mean anything?" She said playing her hand, then watched his face for signs.

"Yeah, she's married to David Fredericks; they're the opening act for my show this week." He looked around the room, nervously.

"Is she the woman you're protecting?"

"If I admitted to that, I wouldn't be doing a good job of protecting, would I?" he smiled.

"Were you with Shana Fredericks, Saturday night?"

"Nope," he spoke quickly.

"OK, then, were you with Lori Davis Saturday night?" she asked changing directions.

"No, I wasn't." He leaned forward, smiling.

"Earlier, we showed a picture of Lori Davis to your man Deano, he says it looked like the woman you brought home that night."

"What the hell does he know, he barely saw her."

"It only takes a second to see a face, Nick. Look we can assume you were with Lori, just before she was murdered, unless you want to establish your alibi and give us a name"

"OK, as long as it stays here, I was with Shana," he smirked.

"We can verify that with her?"

"I'd rather you didn't, but if it will get you off my back. Just be discreet please," he frowned.

"Well, Nick, we will be real discreet. You can go play comedian now. Get out of my sight." She got up and left the room.

"Is that all!" he roared, "I sat here for almost two hours for that? Mother..." Then he stopped remembering the last time he swore at Lynn. He and his lawyer got up and left.

She joined us in observation and paced a bit mumbling something under her breath. I could see she didn't like Nick. She stopped pacing and said, "Deano says the picture of Lori looked like the girl he brought home; but even he admits he barely saw her so he wasn't really sure. Not good enough to hold Nick for, we'll check with Shana to see if she was with him."

Wallace came in an announced that Mick Brennan from the IRS was here to see Lynn. She smiled widely, said at last maybe some retribution, and then went out. I looked at Deacon and told him my make-up was getting annoying on my face. He said there wasn't much more to do here, we could go rescue Buck from Maria. We went out of the room and walked into Webber.

"Hey Captain, how's it going?" I smiled.

He looked, not knowing me in the make-up and said, "Good, thanks," and walked on.

"I guess my disguise works." I laughed.

Deacon tracked down Lynn and said we were leaving; she turned to him and said, quietly, she wanted to see him tonight. He agreed and we went out to my SUV and drove to the convention center. I showed my exhibitor pass, went to Penny's booth, and found Buck sitting with Maria on his lap. I stopped and told them to get a room. Deacon just snarled at Maria. I came up to Penny and she latched on to me and was kissing me to beat hell. I told her she better hope it's me under this make-up. She said at this point she was so horny, she didn't care. I laughed and said I was going to tell the make-up girls of my success, and to get this stuff off my face.

About 3 p.m. Lynn came in, now dressed in plain clothes, and went straight for Deacon. She planted a kiss on him and turned to me, "Well, Nick is going to have a lot of explaining to do to the IRS, the two million was never claimed as income. They are also going to go to his show tonight to see about Nick selling photos and his claim to contributions for charity, they want receipts. He couldn't be in more trouble if he had committed murder."

I was overjoyed hearing that, I looked to Buck and asked if he could pull himself away from his duties and go with me on an errand. He agreed. I asked Deacon if he could keep an eye on Penny for a while, and he asked Lynn if she had plans for him. She said not till later and he agreed.
 
Penny was a bit put out that I was leaving again and I gave her a big smooch that I hoped would last her till I got back. Buck and I headed out and we were driving down Paradise Road, south of the convention center, and into the Pink Slipper parking lot again. I hadn't told Buck where we were going so he got a thrill when he saw the place.

"Jimmy, you devil you. Going to watch the boobies bounce again?" he grinned.

"No, I need to talk to Aaron again, about my little adventure at the Stratosphere and his connection." We got to the door and the same bouncer was there, he remembered my I.D. and just grunted us through after I asked if Aaron was working with Wanda. He said Aaron was here but Wanda was off. I thanked him and we went in.

I headed to the curtain where the girls went to the back room; this time there was no big guard at the opening. We went through the curtain and to the little room that housed Wanda, her snake, and Aaron. The door was open a crack and I peeked in; Aaron was sitting at a computer and was busy typing. I quietly opened the door and yelled, "Hey." Aaron just about went out of his skin and saw me, flipped off the computer screen and said, "Shit, man, did you have to do that?"

"Sorry, I couldn't resist. Just want to ask you a few more questions about your buddies at the Stratosphere." I moved into the room, Buck was still standing just outside the door watching the girls change clothes, and they were giving him dirty looks. I sat on a chair in front of Aaron and could see he was stoned from the look in his eyes.

"Aaron did you call your friends at the Stratosphere when I went up there the other day? Just after I talked to you?" I asked.

"Well, yes," he paused, "I did call Bennie, the valet guy, about letting you know what he saw on the night Nick was there. I tried to call Ralph but he didn't answer his phone." He seemed nervous now.

"I was just wondering, because someone tried to kill me by throwing me off the top of the building. No one but you knew I was going there."

He stared at me with those blank eyes, trying to organize his thoughts. "Hey, Jimmy, I just let Bennie know you were coming, no one else. I don't know how anyone found you, or why, not like you needed killing. Why would they do that?"

"Maybe I was getting too nosey about our buddy Nick. Someone didn't like my snooping around and wanted to stop me. Think that might be a reason? But Nick didn't know I was here, or at the Stratosphere could he?" I questioned.

"I wouldn't know, Jimmy, maybe he had you followed." He was sweating now.

"Nick doesn't even know I'm in town, Aaron, so how could he have me followed." I got closer to him.

Some big guy came walking into the room, "Hey, ass wipe, that fucking tiger you got out back is spooking the help and going nuts. Either get it out of here or I'll shoot it," he yelled and stormed out.

"Shit, I got to go check the thing." He got up and walked out of the room, I followed. We went into a double door off to the side, through what looked like a kitchen and into a back storage room. Back by the delivery doors was a cage containing a very irritable Bengal tiger, looking a bit filthy. Buck swore when he saw the tiger, and said he was going back to watch at the girls. Aaron picked up a pole and started hitting the cage, yelling to the tiger to shut up, then started poking it.

He said to me, "It was delivered here because I don't work at the animal rental any more, and I can sell the thing without giving them any commission. It belonged to one of the magicians in town, but was getting a bit wild, so they asked me to get rid of it. I got a zoo interested but they haven't picked it up yet."

He poked the animal again and it got madder. I said he probably shouldn't do that, Aaron said it would calm down in a while. He went to a box and took out some ugly raw meat and stuck a large pill from the box into the meat. He tossed the meat into a small door on top of the cage and the tiger went for it.

"He'll go to sleep after the pill takes effect," he said nastily. Aaron walked back out of the room, like he was avoiding me, I followed.

He got back to his hole in the wall, and turned, "I don't know anything about who would try to kill you. It's not me, Jimmy, I like you too much to do something like that, and I don't like Nick. I'll tell you what, I'll put out some feelers with my network and see if anyone may have heard anything about it. I'll let you know."

"OK, Aaron, give me a call if you do hear anything. I have to get back to the LV convention center now." I offered.

"Why you going there?" he asked.

I paused a bit, and then said, "My girlfriend is promoting her TV show at the NABP, and I'm not spending enough time with her, so I have to make up for it."

"Who's the girl friend?" he asked.

"Her name is Penny Wickens; she's a TV talk show host back in Michigan. We met when I was chasing down a couple serial killers."

"Wow, sounds exciting." He was weaving now; the drugs were either kicking in more, or wearing off.

I looked in his face and said, "You see what you can find out, OK?" He acknowledged me, I hoped it sunk in, I signaled to Buck and we headed out.

When Buck and I got back to the SUV, Buck asked, "Can you trust that jerk wad, Jimmy?"

"Well, he was a good source of info around Vegas, when I last lived here. He knows the right, and sometimes, wrong people. So I think he can help. It's just troubling that he was the only person to know I was going to the Stratosphere, but it could be coincidence. I hope."

"It was good to see the boobies again." He gave his famous walrus smile.

"Oh, yeah, that's something I think we need to keep to ourselves, no need in getting Penny started again," I asked.

Buck laughed and said his lips were sealed, but only if we could go one more time. I agreed, thinking it would be nice to get Penny's blood stirred up for one more night in bed. We headed back to the center and in to the booth, Penny was busy charming visitors. Deacon and Lynn now took the chair with Lynn on his lap. Maria was sitting on the floor in a yoga position.

"You know Detective Carter, that's not dignified for an officer of the law to be torturing another officer of the law," I grinned.

She looked at Deacon and said, "Actually he's torturing me right now, I shouldn't be sitting on his lap, if you know what I mean."

I laughed out loud at her innuendo and waited till Penny was done with her guests, went to her and said she would have me the rest of the night. She giggled and said she was a bit worn out and would probably go to bed early tonight. I said that sounded like a good idea.

I looked around at our friends, snuggling up to each other and said, "I'm sure your station would have a fit if they knew all the debauchery that was going on in their booth." She agreed and said not good for her image.

I told the two couples to go wander around the show till time to leave and I would watch Penny. They liked that idea and wandered off. I stood next to Penny and grabbed her ass quickly and let go. She looked at me with big eyes and said to behave. I went to sit on the chair and watch her.

Around 9 p.m. the show was winding down and our gang came back. Deacon and Lynn said they had a fancy dinner waiting for them and said good-bye and left. Maria wasn't working tonight so she said Buck should take her someplace nice, he mentioned a strip club he knew. Maria looked at him and smiled, then she said that wasn't so bad an idea. Buck grinned at me. Penny was putting stuff in her booth away and then we went out the door, passing Buck and Maria talking in the lobby. Penny and I got halfway across the parking lot when she stopped and said she had forgotten her purse. I asked how could she have done that, and said I would go get it. I was just going back in the door when Buck and Maria were coming out. I explained what I was doing and Buck said he'd go keep an eye out for Penny.

I got to the booth and looked around, then finally found her purse under the counter, picked it up and headed back to the door. I had just left the building when I heard a scream that sounded like Penny and ran towards the sound. Buck and Maria were almost up to Penny when a van pulled up beside her and she was grabbed by a person in a ski mask and was being pulled in the open side door. Buck made a mad dash toward the van and got there just as the side door slammed shut. It pulled away, but then had to go down a long line of cars to get to the exit towards the left. Buck ran between the cars and took the shortest way there. He jumped a couple of cars in the process and got to the other side of the lot, coming up to the driver's side of the van. He took a leap and grabbed on to the man driving and yanked his head out the window, banging on him with his fist. The van started to careen towards a guard rail and glanced off it with sparks flying. Buck was trying to keep his feet up off the ground to keep from being crushed, still holding on to the man's head.

Buck hit the driver a few more times, then running along side the van, grabbed the door handle and yanked it open. Reaching in, Buck pulled the driver out and on to the ground just as the van came to a halt smashing into a convention sign. I was running as fast as I could and got to the van with my Glock drawn. It was the first time I had it out since I had been in Vegas. I pulled open the side door and brought my gun up into the interior. The other man, still in his ski mask, was lying on the floor of the van, Penny was sitting with a piece of metal pole in her hand, yelling "Son of a Bitch!" at the man. She hit him with it again. I was so relieved to see she was all right, Buck came around the side dragging the driver, and I saw a car pull up and Deacon and Lynn got out. They said they were smooching in the car and saw the drama unfold. Deacon looked at the purse I still had a hold of and said, "Nice purse." I gave it to Penny. Lynn got her cuffs out and handcuffed the two men together, both on the ground of the parking lot, then she called for assistance.

I yanked the ski masks off them and looked at the faces of the two men. I didn't know either of them. They were both still unconscious and after a couple of minutes a patrol car came screaming up. They took the two men, now coming to, and put them in the car. Penny was shaking badly and I told Lynn that I think she needed to go back to the hotel to rest. Lynn said the men would spend the night in jail with kidnap charges pending, they weren't going anywhere tonight. I thanked Buck profusely for stopping them; he said it was all in the line of duty. Penny gave him a kiss on the cheek. The patrol car left after a tow truck showed up to take away the van, Deacon and Lynn took off leaving Buck and Maria heading to her car. I stood there with my gun still out, realizing it, I tucked it back in its holster. Penny said she was glad I didn't shoot myself or her. I said she was pretty wicked with a pipe in her hand, she said when they dumped her in, she found it on the floor and swung it at the guy a couple of times before he knew what was happening.

She laughed a bit, then asked, "What's going on, why did they grab me? Did I piss someone off?"

"No, but I think I may have pissed someone off, and they came after you because of me. I'll tell you more about it when we get to the room. I'm not going to let you be alone for a second from now on." I said harshly.

"Not even to go to the bathroom?" She smiled. I said nope.


*




Attention: the above chapter is the last one to be posted here. The rest of the chapters will be available in the book. If you'd like to know when the book is available for sale, watch the main page of classmatemurders.com or sign up on the update list on the bottom of that front page and I'll keep you informed.