12-10-2011, 02:53 PM
Casey carried her battered green Samsonite suitcase down the stairs. In the living room, her father and brother were watching sports on ESPN, cheering and cursing the Raiders as they took on the Bruins somewhere in California. It was no use telling them good-bye. Indeed, it was no use telling them anything; television dominated their lives to the point of exclusivity. Casey couldn't remember her father saying anything to her besides "Not now, the game's on, wait for the commercial." during her entire childhood. Over time, Benny followed in his father's footsteps (which only led to the refrigerator and back), and turned into a couch potato just like his old man. Maybe that was why he never bothered to find a job, Casey thought.
She left the house without a word to either of them. She hadn't bothered telling them about her new job with Mr. Springer, nor even about the warning left in her cleaning cart. In fact, she had told them nothing about the inheritance, nor had they read it in the paper or seen it on the news, something Casey considered a blessing in disguise; if they ever found out about the nine-million dollar estate Mr. Piccucci left her, they'd be sponging off her for the rest of their lives, and she'd never have a life of her own. Ignorance was bliss as far as she was concerned.
Her mother waited for her in the rusty old Ford Econoline van, the only mode of transportation the Worths possessed. Casey shoved her suitcase into the back next to the wheelchair lift and climbed into the passenger seat. Mrs. Worth backed the van out of the driveway and onto the street. The muffler had rusted away with the rest of the vehicle, so Casey and her mother had to shout over the noise of the engine.
"You sure you gonna be all right with Mr. Springer?" Mrs. Worth shouted.
"I'll be fine, Mom," Casey shouted back.
The van reached the main road leading to the better part of Las Vegas. "Any word about the inheritance?" Mrs. Worth asked.
"Besides that fake bomb and that warning note, no," Casey replied. "The probate hearing's in two weeks. You sure Dad and Benny don't know about it?"
"Not a blessed thing," her mother replied. "You know them--they only read the sports section and the TV listings in the paper and toss everything else aside, and they never watch the news. Hell, I had to tell them who won the election two days after it was over! Believe me, they don't know a thing about it! If they did, they'd both be carrying on like they won the lottery."
"I wish Benny would pick up the classifieds every once in a while," Casey griped. "When is he going to get his butt off the couch and make something of himself? He's thirty-two, for God's sake! He should be living on his own by now! Me, too, for that matter."
Mrs. Worth patted her daughter's knee affectionatly. "Don't worry, hon," she consoled her. "We'll muddle through somehow, with or without that money. In the meantime, you got a nice place to stay with that Mr. Springer, and you'll be making good money. And don't forget to put a little aside for yourself--you need to build yourself a little nest egg if this inheritance business falls through. We'll get along just fine with what we got."
Casey couldn't help but smile at her mother's optimism. It seemed she had spent her entire married life muddling through, first through her own family's hardships, then with early married life and two children to raise, then Dad's disability. Just once, Casey wanted her mother to have a taste of the good life without having to worry about bills due or when the disability check would come through. It would be nice if she did inherit that nine million dollars, but she knew it was hopeless, even as a daydream; she was certain that Michael, Jr., would get it after all, father and son disagreement or no.
The rusty van pulled up to the curb of the street where Mr. Springer lived--it wouldn't do to go up the driveway in such a wretched vehicle, Mrs. Worth thought. Casey kissed her mother good-bye, promised to write, retrieved her suitcase and got out of the van. Mrs. Worth drove away, leaving her daughter on the curb. She couldn't wait around to see Casey safely to the door--the van would stall if it idled too long. Casey trudged up the sloping drive to the Tudoresque mansion around the bend. She had mixed feelings about being a live-in caregiver. On the one hand, she was reluctant to leave her poor mother to fend for herself with her cranky father and shiftless brother. She hoped Mom had the good sense to hide her pocketbook; Benny had the habit of helping himself to whatever cash was lying around, even in Casey's own purse on occasion. Times without number she had reached into her own billfold to pay for something only to discover it empty. When confronted with the theft, Benny, of course, would deny everything.
On the other hand, she found it a relief to be living away from home. No more thefts from her purse, no more stench in the bathroom, no more putting up with Dad's crankiness or Benny's sloveny habits, and no more being hit upon for "a little loanski" from either Dad or Benny, who promised to pay it back and never did. She was tired of being the family breadwinner and ATM. She wanted her own life, and as she stepped up to the front door of the Springer residence, she had a sense that it was beginning at last.
As Casey was starting her new life, someone in the distance was planning to end it. Through a pair of powerful binoculars, every move she made was carefully noted. So, she wasn't working at the Luxor anymore. She was moving in with Danny Springer. The reason why didn't matter, only that she was there. This would make the job more difficult because of the advanced security system in place. It would have to wait until a more opportune time when Casey was away from the house and somewhere less guarded and more open. There was still plenty of time to plan. For now, it was best to observe, get a sense of her daily routine. It was all in the planning. Nothing must be left to chance.
Detective Jim Meridian stepped into the interrogation room where Michael, Jr., waited impatiently. "Okay, we got the lab results," he said, slapping down the file in his hand.
Michael, Jr., shrugged. "So, what's the verdict?"
"The prints aren't yours, and the receipts in your wallet confirms your alibi," Meridian told him. "Tell me, do all of your business trips involve strippers and one-night stands in cheap motels?"
"Hey, salesmen do it all the time," Michael, Jr. replied indifferently.
Meridian nodded grimly. Adultery in Sin City wasn't a vice, it was a favorite pastime, like gambing and getting drunk. "Okay, you're free to go," he said. "Just keep in mind you're not off the hook just yet. Anything happening to Casey Worth, and I'm gonna drag your sorry ass back here, understood?"
"Fine," Michael, Jr., mumbled as he left the room. Just then the flimsy plastic office phone in the interrogation room rang. Meridian picked it up.
"Jim? It's Janice."
It was Janice O'Connor, the AV tech for the department whose job it was to decipher, dissect and detect images on film and videotape for evidence. "I got something for you on the tape."
Meridian hung up, rose from his desk, strode into the AV lab and lowered himself to computer monitor level. "Whaddya got?" he mumbled.
Janice rewound the hotel security tape given to the Bomb Squad from the Luxor. "Here we go," she said, pointing to the monitor. "At seven-thirty, we got someone coming in through the service corridor from the front who looks like a housekeeper, and she's carrying a shopping bag of some sort. At seven-forty, she goes back through the corridor and leaves the hotel through the main entrance--without the shopping bag."
"A housekeeper? Are you sure?" Meridian asked.
"Same uniform, hair up in a bun," Janice confirmed.
"Can you zero in on her face?"
"I'll try." Janice zoomed in on the mystery housekeeper's facial features on the monitor. "Hard to get anything clear," she said, "she's got her head down, and she's wearing sunglasses."
Meridian mulled it over. "Zoom back for a bit, willya?"
Janice zoomed out, restoring the video to its normal dimensions. Meridian thought for a moment. "Now, zoom in on the shopping bag."
The monitor brought the bag into focus. It wasn't a plastic grocery bag, but a large square boutique bag with handles, the kind found in the upscale shops along the Strip. "Can you highlight the printing on the bag?" Meridian asked.
With a few clicks of the mouse, the lettering on the bag stood out clearly: GUCCI.
Meridian stood there, deep in thought. Where would a housekeeper get a Gucci shopping bag? Discarded, maybe? Or had she racked up one hell of a credit card debt?
Or picked it up from her former employer?
But no, Tina LaRue and Mick had been divorced for years, and he knew that Mick would never shop at Gucci's or any of the other high-end stores; he was more of a Brooks Brothers type. Besides, his caregiver's fingerprints weren't on the device, but someone else's was. But whose?
Meridian rose and left the AV lab. He was going back to the Luxor and interview every housekeeper on that shift until he got an answer, even if he had to interview them all. After that, he was going to pay a little visit to Tina LaRue Piccucci.