12-31-2011, 04:54 PM
Casey stared at Springs in shock. "Tina? Are you sure?"
"Yeah, it's her all right," Springs replied. "Care to take a look?"
Casey hesitated. "I'll take your word for it."
Springs walked away from the dumpster and came over to Casey's side. He put his arm around her shoulder. "Well, that just leaves you, sweetheart," he deadpanned. "Now that Junior and Tina's gone, you're the sole heir to Mick's estate."
The security guard looked at them suspiciously. "Wait a minute," he said. "What's this about an estate?"
"Well," Casey hedged, "it's a pretty long story."
Springs jumped in. "Well, y'see, Cassie here--"
"Whatever. Anyway, she got all of Mick's dough, see, and Junior and Tina got gypped out of the whole deal. They were gonna settle it in probate court tomorrow--" He turned to Casey. "It's tomorrow right?"
Casey nodded. "Well, anyway," Springs continued, "they'd been at each other's throats since. Junior got blown up in his car, and now Tina's got bumped off, so that leaves..." He nodded toward Casey.
The guard nodded. "I think you'd better stick around for a while, miss," he said to Casey. "The detective will want to talk to you."
Casey divined what the guard was thinking. "You don't mean to say you think I killed Tina, do you?" she said, appalled.
"I'm not accusing you of anything, miss," the guard said. "But you are still mixed up in this mess, so I'd advise you to stick around for a while."
Casey turned to Springs. "Mr. Springer, you know I'm innocent," she wailed. "I was with you all the time, except to go to the office to pick up my check."
Springs turned to the guard. "Look, buddy," he said. "Cassie here is innocent. She ain't done nothin' to nobody. She's been with me all afternoon."
"Like I said, I'm not accusing anyone of anything," the guard said calmly. "I just think it'd be a good idea if Cassie or Casey or whatever the hell her name is stayed here until the detective gets here, so just simmer down, willya?"
Casey laid a hand on Springs' arm. "It's okay, Mr. Springer," she said. "I'm sure Detective Meridian will prove my innocence when he gets here."
"You know who the detective is?" the guard asked.
"Yeah, it's Detective Jim Meridian," Casey replied. "He's been on this whole case since it began with that phony bomb threat a few weeks ago. I've been working with him since."
"Well, it's good to know you're aquainted with each other," the guard said drily. "Look, I got to get back to work. Just make sure you're here to meet the detective when he gets here, got it?"
"I got it, I got it."
"Good." The guard walked away. Casey breathed a heavy sigh. Springs patted her shoulder. "Don't worry, sweetheart," he said, "I know you didn't do it. You just stay put for a while longer." He chuckled a bit. "Y'know, I always said she was trash," he mused. "Seems a fitting end, don't it?"
Springs turned and headed for the service entrance. "Mr. Springer, where are you going?" Casey asked fearfully.
"Me? I'm gonna get me a drink," he replied. "After what happened here, I need one."
Meridian pulled up to the service entrance of the hotel and parked at the curb. Around the area, yellow Crime Scene tape cordoned off the trash dumpster area. The CSI team was dusting for fingerprints on the lid of one of the dumpsters, taking photographs of the body, and scouring the whole area for other clues. Meridian bolted out of his car and headed straight for the entrance, flashing his badge to the security guards who waved him through. He turned to the chief of security. "Okay, what've we got here?" he demanded.
"Female, around forty or so, hard to tell with all that makeup she got plastered on her face," the chief told him. "Body's in the dumpster. Some old man ID'd her as one Tina LaRue."
"We got witnesses?"
"One," the chief replied. "Some little runaway who wanted to see Criss Angel. Name's Alicia Rose. Saw the whole thing in the ladies' room. She's in the office right now."
"Good. Where's the vic?"
The chief led Meridian to the dumpster where Tina's body lay entombed. Jim fought to overcome the stench of rotting food and other debris eminating from the bin and studied the corpse. From the haphazard way her arms and legs were splayed on the surface of the bags, he could tell she had been tossed in hastily, no binding or gagging. Her mouth was agape and her tongue was a bright blue, sticking out of her mouth almost obscenely. Meridian could make out signs of brusing around her neck, meaning she had been strangled.
"Is the whole hotel sealed off?" he asked.
"Whole place is on lockdown," the chief replied. "No one goes in, no one gets out."
"Where's the witness?"
"Inside." The chief led Meridian to the little office where Alicia Rose waited. He opened the door where a frightened child cowered in a chair, staring at Meridian with fear filled eyes. Meridian sat across from her with a reassuring smile. He had questioned kids before, and he knew from long experience that the best way to get them to open up was to try to be a friend to them, especially when they'd been traumatized by what they had witnessed.
"Hello, Alicia," Meridian greeted her warmly. "How are you?"
"I'm okay, I guess," Alicia replied in a trembling voice.
"So, where are you from?"
Alicia swallowed hard. "Marvinville," she answered. "Marvinville, Iowa."
"That's a pretty long ways from here."
Alicia nodded. "You here by yourself?" Meridian asked.
Alicia nodded again.
"Why'd you come all the way from Marvinville, Iowa, to Las Vegas?"
"I wanted to see Criss Angel," she half-whispered. "I wanted to go to Loyalapalooza."
"Loyalapalooza. It's a big Loyalfest for Criss Angel fans," Alicia explained. "It starts tomorrow, and I got here a day early, and I had to go to the bathroom, and that's when...I saw that..."
"You saw what, Alicia?"
"I saw that hotel maid kill that lady." Alicia burst into tears. Meridian gave her a handkerchief he specially reserved for teary-eyed witnesses. "She choked her to death."
"How did this maid choke her to death?"
"With a blue scarf," Alicia replied, wiping her nose with the handkerchief. "The dressy kind, not the winter kind. The silky kind."
Meridian nodded. Another piece of the puzzle had just fallen into place. "If you saw this hotel maid again, would you be able to recognize her?"
"You remember what she looked like?"
"Uh, dark hair, uniform. She wore sunglasses--I don't know why."
Meridian nodded again. It was definatly the mystery maid he had been hunting down, and she was here in the hotel. "Okay, Alicia," he said. "I'm going to find this hotel maid. Meantime, you stay here."
"Please, Detective, I'm getting awfully hungry," she moaned. "Can I get something to eat around here? I got my own money."
Meridian smiled a little. "Save it," he said. "You're gonna need it for the return trip home. We'll get you something to eat."
Alica sank deeper into her chair. Meridian left the room and charged out to the scene of the crime. "Chief!" he shouted. "We need your men to scour the whole hotel," he said. "Look for a woman of medium height, dark hair tied up and wearing sunglasses and a housekeeper's uniform. She's not an employee here, so check all entrances and exits. If no one's gone out of the building, she should still be in here."
"Got it," the chief confirmed.
Casey crossed over to Meridian. "Detective? Do you know who did it?"
Meridian looked at Casey. "Let's just say I got a hunch."