Family Affairs: The Aftermath -
01-07-2012, 08:26 PM
Author's Note: This is a small sequel to Family Affairs. It picks up where the story left off. I normally don't do sequels, but I needed to take care of some unfinished business.
Before the sun even rose on Saturday morning, the Piccucci Affair, as the press dubbed it, was worldwide news. It had all the elements of a great melodrama: murder, greed, the mob, and a well-known celebrity mixed up in it. Journalists milked it for all it was worth, and the public was eating it up. Print and electronic media practically competed with each other to produce the most eyecatching headline:
MURDER AT THE LUXOR!!
THE PICCUCCI AFFAIR: A TALE OF MONEY, MURDER AND THE MOB
GUARDIAN ANGEL: FAMOUS ILLUSIONIST CRISS ANGEL FENDS OFF KILLER
WIDOW OF MOBSTER FOUND DEAD AT THE LUXOR
WOMAN BLACKMAILS MOTHER-IN-LAW, KILLS HUSBAND FOR INHERITANCE
PICCUCCI ESTATE SPLIT FOUR WAYS BETWEEN SURVIVING CHILDREN, CARETAKER
MAGICIAN TACKLES PICCUCCI MURDERER, SAVES THREE
Criss' part in the affair was maginified by a factor of ten, making him the hero of the story, while Casey's role was greatly diminished, reducing her to damsel-in-distress status. Springs was all but forgotten, save for some background information he gave to the press after Pamela's arrest. Alicia Rose was not mentioned by name, nor was her history, and her face was strategically blurred in the video surveillance tape to protect her identity. As far as the public was concerned, she was just an innocent bystander who got caught in the crossfire. Detective Jim Meridian could not be reached for comment, the press stated.
Criss Angel spent the better part of Sunday in his suite at the Luxor, with only his cat, Hammie, for company. It was a relief to be alone in the peace and quiet of his room, away from the demands of the reporters and the blinding flash of the cameras. Now he sat on his bed, a glass of juice in his hand, his beloved cat curled up at the foot, dozing. The media had been hounding him all day yesterday for yet another statement regarding the so-called Piccucci Affair and his so-called heroism in it. He couldn't even go to the gym for a workout without a bevy of cameramen following him; the security crew had to herd the whole lot of them out of the hotel with a terse "No interviews!".
He shouldn't have gotten involved, he thought. He should have let Springs and Casey go alone to the security office to identify the body. He should have let Casey go back inside the hotel herself and look for Springs while he returned to the production office. He should have divorced himself completely from the whole sordid mess--it had been none of his business in the first place. He had never even heard of the Piccucci family or the Guys of Glitter Gulch before this whole thing started...well, when did it start? Oh, yeah, that fake bomb in the cleaning cart. But that was targeted at Casey, not him.
Not that he was unsympathetic toward her plight; he couldn't help but feel sorry for her. It was just that he should have backed off when he had the chance. But no, against his better judgement he had to accompany Casey on her search for her employer. Geez, all she had to do was head to the hotel lounge and find him at the bar--he didn't have to go with her at all. Instead, he accompanied her to the service corridor where Springs was walking in front of Pamela and that girl she held hostage, Alicia (he never learned her last name, by the way), and as a result became a hostage himself.
Instinct had taken over when he found himself staring down the barrel of a thirty-eight: thorugh some latent sense of paternal instinct he had shielded Alicia with his own body, then his martial arts training had kicked in the minute he saw Pamela drop her guard when that cop showed up--one swift leap and she was down on the floor. It had been a risky move, going against someone who was armed and ready to shoot; he could have been killed himself, and for what?
Criss reflected on that last query. For what? To save a life, that was what. There was an old man who could barely shuffle from one end of the hallway to the other, a terrified woman who had been the primary target, and a hysterical child several hundred miles from home. What chance did any of them have in fending off that crazy (bleep) leveling a gun in their faces? She could have shot all three of them before that cop came in. Or maybe not; he wasn't sure. All he knew was that if he hadn't been there in the first place, if he had just gone on to the production office instead of accompanying Casey to the security office to identify that woman's body, let alone help her find Springs, he wouldn't be mixed up in the whole damn mess.
But what about Casey? And Alicia? And Springs? Would they have survived? Would the cop who showed up still have been able to save them if he hadn't been there to tackle her? Would there have been another murder in the hotel if he hadn't been there? What would have really happened if he hadn't involved himself with Casey and the Piccuccis?
His mind boggled over what could have been if Fate had decreed otherwise. Finally he gave up--it was no good ruminating over past mistakes. What was done was done, no sense crying over spilled milk and all that BS. He would just have to ride it out until it blew over. He knew that scandals rose up like weeds, flourished for a time, milked by the media until dry, then faded away until new ones cropped up, the old ones all but forgotten. Well, one good thing came out of it, he thought in retrospect: four innocent people were still alive, and the killer was now behind bars.
But there was the trial, he suddenly remembered. Would he be called to testify? The security tapes should be evidence enough to convict her, and he was positive that the police had her records on file. Hell, she practically confessed in that hallway--she should just plead guilty and avoid a trial altogether. That would be nice, but living in the real world often conflicted with one's wishes and desires for perfection. Anyway, it would probably be a year or two before Pamela Piccucci had her day in court. Maybe that would give her time to reflect on her evil ways and repent of her crimes.
Criss laughed ruefully at the thought of a penitent Pamela pleading guilty to two counts of murder and assault with intent to murder. Yeah, he thought, like that was going to happen! Granted, she would be spared the death penalty if she did, but then she'd be facing life behind bars, practically a fate worse than death for a woman who was accustomed to a life of wealth and privilege. No, he knew she was too proud to admit guilt to anything. And pride, he had learned in his youth, goeth before a fall, and Pamela Piccucci had fallen pretty damn hard. Criss could only hope he wouldn't be called to testify at the trial, if there would be one. But he doubted it. He doubted it very much.
Jim Meridian sat behind his desk, savoring the blissful feeling of another case closed. Not just any case, but the most high-profile double murder case in Las Vegas--to date, he amended. Wife blows up two-timing hubby in his car, then strangles former mother-in-law to claim former mobster's estate, sends death threats to caretaker--to the general public, it may have been a horrific crime of major proportions, but for Meridian it was just another day at the office.
His final report on the Piccucci case lay on his desk, printed out with accompanying photos and autopsy sketches, bound in a folder and good to go. Meridian pinched his eyes with his fingers; his head ached from all of the typing and form filling. Maybe he needed glasses? He made a mental note to get his eyes checked; the department insurance would cover it, no problem. God, I hate growing old, he said to himself.
He was also sleepy from having been up half the night seeing Alicia Rose off at the airport around two AM that Saturday morning. A small Cessna passenger plane, a mere puddle-jumper compared to the jumbo jets that usually landed there, agreed to take the recalcitrant runaway adolescent back to--oh, God did he forget the name of that town already? He really was getting old!--back to Iowa and her mother. He could imagine Mom Rose would be pretty damn upset when she got there. Poor kid probably won't be able to sit down for a week after this, he thought with a chuckle. Oh, well, it was totally out of his hands now. The important thing was that she was back where she belonged, safe and sound.
Meridian's mind replayed the scene in the service corridor: He had just arrived and demanded that Pamela drop her weapon. She had hesitated for just a heartbeat, then that Criss Angel guy had to play the big hero and tackle her, risking getting shot himself. While he was somewhat grateful for the assist and admired his sense of timing, he still thought the brash magician an idiot for taking a chance like that. But then, that guy took risks for a living, didn't he? Well, there was taking risks on stage and taking risks in real life; the former was more controlled with safety features in place should something go wrong. Real life wasn't like that--you survived only by chance and sheer dumb luck, even if you did take precautions.
After Pamela was safely in police custody, Meridian had taken Criss, Casey and Alicia back into the security office for a quick debriefing (Springs had left the scene, mumbling something about getting a drink. Meridian had decided to catch up with the old man later). He had questioned Criss first, Alicia and Casey being to traumatized to speak. He found the famous illusionist very co-operative, even friendly.
"Hell of a risk you took there, Angel," he had said. "One wrong move and you'd have been shot."
Criss had shrugged. "I saw my chance, and I took it," he had replied. "You distracted her long enough for me to make my move. It's like the magician's art of misdirection--I make you look over here, when you should be looking over here." He had demonstrated this point by holding up one of his medallions in his left hand, then holding up Meridian's pen in his right.
Meridian had been suitably impressed, recalling his police acadamy training back in the day: look for an opening, a moment when the perp is distracted, then make your move. This guy had it down in spades, he had thought, though for a different reason.
Criss had also replayed what Pamela had said in the corridor, if not word for word, then pretty close to it. Yes, it had been she who had delivered the phony bomb, blew up her husband (how, he didn't know), and murdered Tina LaRue. Pamela had also mentioned something about her former mother-in-law blackmailing her. Meridian recalled Pamela coming into his office with the letter she had received that morning; the lab established from the latent fingerprints that Tina had indeed sent it. No one was innocent except Casey Worth, he thought ruefully. And Casey herself had confirmed what Criss had told him.
So did Alicia once she had calmed down. Meridian had upbraided her for slipping out of the office like she did, though she had protested that she was hungry and really needed something to eat and she was going to come back, really she was. She had identified Pamela as Tina's killer in a videocam lineup, then sent to the youth shelter when he was through questioning her, only to find her at that shindig on the Luxor Hotel parking garage the next day. What the hell was it called again? Somethingpalooza? Whatever. At any rate he had bought her back to the shelter, then personally drove her to the airport where her plane was waiting to take her home around two AM, putting her in the custody of the pilot to make damn sure she got where she was supposed to be. Alicia had boarded the plane with the same heavy look convicts wore when climbing into a prison van, except convicts usually didn't say they were sorry for all the trouble they caused and hug the arresting officer goodbye.
He had caught up with Springs after the debriefings in the security office. Sure enough, there he was at the bar, nursing a Manhattan. Springs had offered him a drink, but he refused, saying he was on duty. Meridian didn't ask any questions but listened as the garrulous old man went on and on about how Tina LaRue had been poison from the day he had met her over thirty years ago, and how Pamela had done the world a favor for bumping her off, and how Pamela had taken a page out of Shorty Hyneman's book by pouring gasoline in the radiator of Junior's car ("How else could she have done it?" he had said. "She didn't know nothin' about explosives!"), and what happened at the reading of Mick's will, and the whole bomb hoax, and whatever came into the old man's mind. Meridian managed to glean whatever useful information he could from Springs' ramblings, then had left the bar debating whether he should be subpoened to testify. The lawyer questioning him would have a helluva time getting the old coot to stay on track, he had reflected.
Meridian had returned to his office and spent the rest of the night typing up the report. All nighters were nothing new to him--there were times when he practically lived in his office. But as time passed, age and the stress of his job began taking its toll on his system. He began to develop headaches from staring at the computer screen, and bags, wrinkles and crow's feet were creasing his face. He couldn't recall the last time he went on vacation. Maybe he should...?
He pulled out the sofa bed and flopped down on it. If he drove home in his exhausted state, he'd be a statistic for sure. It had been a long, trying day, and he felt he earned a few Zs. The Piccucci case was officially closed, cut and dry. All that remained was the trial, and who knew when that would take place?