12-09-2011, 07:38 PM
Criss stared at the old man in the tailored suit and faded fedora. He wasn't Marlon Brando, granted, but he certainly looked the mobster type. He wondered what he role had been when The Guys of Glitter Gulch were in their heyday. Hit man? Enforcer? Who knew? He might have been a dangerous criminal in the past, handy with a machine gun or something more subtle--a stilletto, say, or even a thirty-eight. Should he let Casey go to work for this guy? he wondered.
"I heard about what happened here this morning," Springs said. "Quite a scare, there, wasn't it?"
"You know anything about it?" Criss asked casually, with a tinge of suspicion.
"Me? Eff no," Springs replied. "Heard about it on the radio in the car." The corner of his mouth turned up in a half-smile, half-sneer. "Couldn't help but remembering that's what Shorty Hyneman used to do back in the day."
"Who's Shorty Hyneman?" Criss wanted to know.
"He was one of The Guys," Springs replied. "Little guy, four foot eleven--jockey's height. Used to be a jockey, but got suspended for throwing a race at Belmont. He used to be a munitions expert during the war, so he came in handy when there was a job to do. Being such a little guy, he could hide anywhere, even a drain pipe. The bomb in the cart was his M.O.: he'd slip into some fancy hotel, hide a bomb in a food cart or something, then slip out without anyone seeing him. Bellhop'd take the cart up, leave, then five, ten minutes later, boom. He was a little guy, but he was big on smarts. That's why we let him join up. Better to have him working for us instead of against us."
"You think Shorty Hyneman had anything to do with this?" Criss asked.
"He ain't got nothin' to do with nothin' anymore, pal," Springs retorted. "Shorty's been dead for almost ten years now. Drank himself to death. I'm the only one left of The Guys, now that Mick is gone. Ask her." He pointed his cigar at Casey, who nodded in agreement.
"Anyway, Cassie here--"
"Casey," she reminded him.
"Whatever. Anyway, Casey here got the gold mine while Junior and the ex-wife got the shaft," Springs went on. "Now they're both hot under the collar about it and are taking it to court. She tell you about that?"
"Yeah, she did," Criss replied. "It was in the paper, too. Nine million dollars."
"And that ain't peanuts." Springs took a drag on his Havana.
"But why would Mick leave Casey all of his money instead of his son?" Criss asked. "I can understand the ex-wife getting cut out of the will, but wouldn't his son be the legal heir?"
"Junior's got a reputation for being the playboy type," Springs explained. "I know he's seeing another woman behind his wife's back. He's also up to his eyeballs in debt--living beyond his means, know what I'm saying."
"Him and a million other Americans," Criss retorted.
"Anyway, just between you, me and the lamppost, I think Mick's trying to bump off Cassie here," Springs said conspiritorially, "so he can get his meathooks into his old man's money."
"It's Casey," Criss corrected him, "and I gotta admit, that makes sense. But let's let the police handle it, okay? In the meantime, we gotta protect Casey here. The probate hearing's in two weeks, and that's more than enough time for Junior to bump her off, know what I mean?"
"I know what you mean," Springs nodded. "So I'm hiring her to do the same thing she did for Mick. I got stomach cancer, you know, and if I don't get a stomach transplant, I'm gonna be joining Mick, Shorty and the other Guys in the Great Beyond before you know it. And I'll make damn sure that Cassie here doesn't get her pretty little self killed, okay?"
Criss turned to Casey. "You really want to work for this guy?" he asked her.
Casey smiled. "Let's just say Mr. Springer here's made me an offer I can't refuse."
Criss shrugged, conceding to her wishes. "Well, I got to get back," he said. "Just be careful, okay?"
"I will," she promised.
Criss shook Springs' hand. "Nice meeting you, Mr. Springer."
"Springs," he said. "Just call me Springs."
"Springs. You can call me Criss."
"Criss. Nice to meet ya. Well, come on, Cassie, let's get outta here."
"It's Casey, Mr. Springer."
A fake bomb! Michael, Jr., laughed out loud after Detective Jim Meridian explained the whole situation to him during his investigaton of the incident. A fake bomb in some hotel maid's cleaning cart! What a joke! Couldn't have been Shorty Hyneman; he'd been dead for years. And anyway, he would have used the real thing instead of road flares. Who the hell could have pulled such an asinine stunt like that? And why?
"That's what I want you to tell me," Meridian said to him, without laughing.
Michael, Jr., held up his hands to halt the interrogation. "Waitaminit, waitaminit. You think I had something to do with this?"
"Either you or Tina LaRue," Meridian said, handing him the warning note that had been attached to the fake bomb. "Read this."
"'This is a warning!Give up the inheritance or else!' I had nothing to do with this," Michael, Jr., protested. "I'd been out of town these past few days. Business trip. Ask my wife."
Meridian nodded skeptically. Out of town. How many times had he heard that old chestnut? Out of town doing what, he wondered. Long experience had taught him that "out of town" either meant hiding out, shacking up with some broad, or just covering his tracks. Well, there were ways of uncovering those tracks.
"Well, from what I can see, you got a couple of choices," Meridian told him. "You can come down to the station and co-operate with us, give us a few fingerprints for our files, or I can arrest you on suspicion of attempted murder and haul your sorry ass into custody. Your call."
Michael, Jr., held up his hands again, this time in surrender. "Okay, okay, don't get ugly," he said placatingly. "Let's get this unpleasantness over and done with. But I assure you, Detective, I had nothing to do with all this."
Meridian escorted Michael, Jr., to the plain, unobtrusive navy-blue Crown Victoria, with the pivoting spotlight next to the rear view mirror on the driver's side the only hint of it being a squad car. Michael, Jr., entered it with all the casualness of a passenger getting into a taxi cab. Meridian slammed the door, circled around and slid into the driver's seat. Soon the dark blue vehicle was quietly driving down the streets of Las Vegas to the police station. Meridian suspended all judgement as he drove his suspect to headquarters, but he narrowed it down to three possible scenarios: Michael, Jr., did it; Michael, Jr., paid someone to do it; someone else did it. Only the fingerprints on file would tell him for sure.