12-31-2011, 05:03 PM
Alica sat in the small room in the hotel security office, reflecting on the misery of the day. She had barely begun to enjoy the wonders of Las Vegas when she ended up witnessing a murder; now everyone knew that she had run away from home, and they were threatening to send her back. She dreaded the moment of facing her mother upon her return to Marvinville. Would she be angry? Duh! No doubt! She'll probably ground me until I'm Criss' age, she thought morosely. If she doesn't kill me first.
The minutes crawled by, and Alicia's fears turned to impatience. Detective Meridian had promised to bring her something to eat but so far no one had shown up. She wished Criss was still there with her, if only to keep her company. Maybe they forgot about her because they were too busy with the murder investigation, she reasoned. It was perfectly possible--Alicia had seen enough CSI shows to know that a homicide investigation took time and effort; every little scrap of evidence had to be analyzed, every surface had to be dusted for fingerprints, every square foot of the crime scene had to be photographed. She had already given her eyewitness testamony to the detective; why should she bother hanging around here starving to death?
Maybe if I just slipped out for a while, she thought, just for a few minutes so I can get something to eat. It's not like I'm running away again. I'll just be gone for a little while, then I'll come right back. Maybe I'll see Criss again. He'll understand, won't he?
Alicia got up from her chair, tiptoed to the door, opened it just a crack and peeked out. No on was in sight. Good! She slipped out and tiptoed down the hallway, then peered around the reception area of the security office. Empty. A quick dash out the door and she was free. I'm just going to get something to eat and come right back, she told herself. It's not like I'm running away again.
She crept down the service corridor, past the utilitarian doors painted the same shade as the walls, keeping an eye out for anyone who might see her and send her back to the security office. At the end of the hallway, she found herself in an almost forgotten corner of the atrium camoflaged by large potted plants. Alicia spread the foliage and looked around. The coast was clear as far as she could see. Now to just walk out into the atrium and--
A hand clamped over her mouth and pulled her back. Alicia struggled to free herself, but the cold steel of a pistol pressed against the temple of her head stilled her. "Don't try anything funny," she heard a woman's voice hiss in her ear from behind. "Just keep moving and you won't get hurt."
It's her! Alicia thought wildly. It's that crazy lady who killed that other lady!
Too frightened to scream, she allowed herself to be dragged back through the corridor to whatever fate awaited her. Please don't kill me! she pleaded mentally. Please don't kill me!
While the CSI team was preoccupied with their search for clues, Springs managed to slip back into the hotel unnoticed. Let the gumshoes figure out who killed Tina, he thought. Like I give a rat's ass about it! Whoever did it did the world a favor as far as I'm concerned. Screw the doctor's orders, I'm gonna get me a drink.
After meandering around for a good five minutes or so, he found himself in the service corridor. "Geez-Louise!" he growled. "How the hell do you get out of here? Place is like a effing maze!"
Springs shuffled on, determined to find the first watering hole he could lay eyes on. Suddenly he halted, startled at the sound of scuffling and muffled cries. His eyes weren't as sharp as they used to be, but he could still make out the forms of a hotel maid holding a girl hostage with a gun to her head. What the eff? Springs wondered.
Before he could take any action, however, the gun-toting maid spotted him and turned the pistol toward him. Springs froze, holding up his hands but remaing calm. Forty years in the rackets had taught him to respect anyone who was packing heat, inside or outside the law.
"Whaddya want?" Springs asked. "Do what you want with me, but let the girl go. She ain't done nothin'."
"Just turn around and keep walking, old man," the maid ordered him. "And no funny business."
Springs turned and shuffled back the way he came. There was the nagging feeling that he had heard that voice before, but for the life of him he couldn't recall. If only he could get a good look at her face, maybe that would shake the cobwebs off a few memory cells. But in his present condition it was impossible. Where the hell is that gumshoe Meridian? he thought. Son of a (bleep)! The one time I need a cop there ain't one around.
Casey looked around the crime scene outside for Mr. Springer. Where'd he go? she wondered. "Detective?" she called out to Meridian who was just at the door. "Mr. Springer's gone! I don't see him anywhere!"
"Look, Casey," Meridian said impatiently, "I've got bigger fish to fry. I can't go looking for some old fart when there's a murderer on the loose. You'll just have to look for him yourself."
Meridian dashed into the hotel, his pistol drawn. Casey was hot on his heels, ignoring the guard's warning of the lockdown still in effect, determined to find her employer. Meanwhile, inside the security office, Criss had just come to the conclusion that none of this involved him, so he decided to go back to the production office. The novelty of a homicide had worn off, and he was just in the way of the investigation. The whole hotel was on lockdown, anyway, so he might as well get something accomplished. He had just turned to leave when Meridian blew by him, hellbent on finding the killer. Seeing the gun, Criss flattened himself against a wall to get out of his way. Before he could regain his composure, Casey came dashing up to him, breathless with anxiety. "Did you see Mr. Springer?" she pleaded.
Criss shook his head, still bewildered over what was going on. "Uh, no I haven't," he replied bemusedly. "What the hell's going on?"
"Detective Meridian's after the killer, and I got to find Mr. Springer," Casey babbled. "Please, you got to help me!"
Oh, (bleep)! Criss sighed heavily, resigning himself to the role of hero to the damsel in distress. "Come on, let's go," he said without much enthusiasm. "He probably went back to the bar more than likely."
Casey and Criss left the security office and made their way down the service corridor. To the relief of both of them, they spotted Mr. Springer right in front of them. "See, there he is," Criss said casually, pointing at the old man. "Hey, Springs, where ya been?"
"Don't come any closer," a woman's voice spoke from behind him. "Or Cutie-pie here gets it."
Criss and Casey froze. Being the tallest in the hall, Criss could see a woman dressed as a hotel maid holding Alicia Rose hostage. "Let her go," he ordered.
"Oh, right," the phony maid sneered. "Like I'm going to listen to you!" She waved the gun towards them. "Hands up, all of you! Up against the wall over there!"
Criss, Casey and Springs moved to the wall, their hands up to shoulder level. The gunwoman flung Alicia toward them. "You, too!" she snarled.
Alicia stumbled toward Criss and landed in his arms, weeping loudly. "Shut up, you little twerp!" the gunwoman snapped. "I should blow your brains out right now, this minute!"
Criss pulled Alicia behind him, shielding her with his own body. He glared at the madwoman in the maid's uniform. "Don't even try it, (bleep)!" he growled. "You'll have to get by me first!"
"I'm more than willing to oblige," the gunwoman said, smiling evilly.
"What do you want with us?" Casey demanded.
"Oh, nothing," the gunwoman said. "Except for you and the old man there to be out of my life forever. Once you're both out of the way, I can claim Mick's money all for myself. How convenient that you showed up when you did--it spared me a trip to Springs' house."
"But how did you..."
"Let's just say the police wern't the only ones staking you out, sweetie."
"What's Mick got to do with you?" Springs demanded hoarsely. "What've you go to do with any of this?"
"More than you realize, Springs," she answered. "More than you realize. Mike was supposed to inherit the estate from his father, but no, he had to go and leave it to little Casey here! Now that Mike and that tramp Tina's gone, there's nothing to stand in my way of getting the money. Nothing, that is, except the four of you."
Casey stared incredulously at the gunwoman. "Mrs. Piccucci?"
Another oily smile. "Give the little lady a kewpie doll," she said sarcastically.
"But the probate hearing's tomorrow!" Casey argued. "I'm sure we can reach some sort of settlement!"
"Sorry, sweetie," Pamela said casually, "but I need that nine million more than you do, and I can't have you getting any of it. But I'll tell you what: I'll leave you a bonus check for all the tender loving care you gave to Mick. It'll be enough to cover your funeral costs."
"Look, do what you want with me," Casey pleaded, "but let the others go!"
"Sorry, no can do," Pamela retorted. "Cutie-pie over there saw too much already, and Magic Man here had to stick his nose where it didn't belong. And Springs? Well, let's just say he's had a good run, and now it's time for him to bow out."
Criss turned his head to face Alicia. "Is she...?"
Alicia nodded frantically. "She's the one," she whispered, cowering behind Criss' back.
Criss turned back to Pamela. "So it was you all the time," he said accusingly. "You sent that phony bomb threat, blew up your husband in his car and killed that woman in the ladies' room--all for nine million dollars."
Pamela strutted closer to Criss. "Figured that out all by yourself, didn't you?" she sneered. "You're pretty smart, you know that? Kinda cute, too. Oh, yes, I did send that phony bomb threat as you call it. As for blowing up that lying playboy husband of mine who had been cheating behind my back for years--oh, yes, I knew all about his affairs, especially that little blond tart, Jessie! I'd been trailing him all along--well, let's just say payback's a (bleep). And as for greedy (bleep), Tina, she tried to blackmail me into giving up the inheritance. As far as I'm concerned, it was justifiable homicide on both counts."
She strutted back, still staring at Criss. "Too bad you got yourself mixed up in all this, and it's too bad I have to kill you with the others, but I just can't have any witnesses. You understand, don't you?"
Pamela raised the gun and aimed it at Casey. "Say hello to Mick for me, will you?" she said.
"Drop the gun, Pamela!"
All eyes turned to see Detective Meridian poised with his pistol aimed squarely at Pamela. "Drop your weapon and get down on the ground!" he barked.
For the briefest moment, Pamela dropped her guard as she stared at Meridian. This moment was not lost on Criss--he sprung forward and knocked Pamela to the floor. The gun fell from her hand and clattered to the floor. Alicia screamed in horror. Meridian took over, slammed Pamela to the tiles and wrenched her hands behind her back to cuff her. "You (bleepers)!" she screamed angrily. "You (bleeping bleepers)!"
"You have the right to remain silent," Meridian told her officiously. "Anything you say will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you can't afford one, one will be provided for you before questioning. Understand."
Pamela panted heavily under Meridian's weight. "I get it, Joe Friday, now just get off me! You're breaking my ribs!"
Two security guards arrived and helped Meridian escort Pamela out of the hall. Alicia wrapped her arms around Criss, hyperventilating in her state of panic. Casey embraced them both in a group hug. Springs just stood there grimly, then shuffled out of the corridor. "I'm gettin' me a drink," he grumbled. "Any of you wanna join me, go right ahead. I'm gettin' the eff out of here before something really goes wrong." He sighed heavily. "Geez-Louise! Glad I ain't got no family to leave all of my dough to."