01-16-2012, 09:51 PM
Criss watched as the delivery truck backed slowly into his personal garage, a huge warehouse containing rows upon rows of gleaming automobiles and motorcycles, nearly fifty in all, not counting the ones on display at the Luxor Hotel. This was his private collection, not as huge as Jay Leno's but still pretty impressive. His latest aquisition, the '55 Spyder he had purchased at the Piccucci estate auction, had just arrived, ready to join the rest of his toys in the oversized garage.
Normally, Criss would be as excited as a kid on Christmas morning when he bought a new car or motorcycle, but this time the usual euphoria just wasn't there. Instead, he had been regretting his purchase ever since he had left the auction, especially the amount he had spent on it--four thousand five hundred dollars, more than a four bedroom house in suburban Las Vegas. It was a pretty cool car, a rare classic from the Fifties, but as the creamy roadster rolled out of the truck and onto the warehouse floor, it suddenly turned into a white elephant, a useless extravagance bought simply out of spite against a rival. He recalled AJ's words in the purchasing office: That's the car James Dean died in. Criss had dismissed AJ's remark out of hand, but now they came back to haunt him. Did AJ tell him that to be pedantic, or out of spite?
Or, maybe, to warn him?
Criss shook the creepy thoughts out of his head. No way was he going to let that (bleep)hole get the better of him! Boldly, almost defiantly, he signed the delivery receipts, took the keys from the deliveryman, hopped into the Spyder and jammed the key into the ignition. The vintage auto started up as smoothly and as quickly as the day it was manufactured. Criss drove it down the length of the warehouse, then deftly turned it into the space he had reserved for it. There was nothing wrong with it, he thought. The car was fine. It handled well, and the ride was smooth. There was nothing to worry about. He was just going through a case of buyer's remorse, nothing more.
He got out of the Spyder and walked away. (Bleep) AJ! he said to himself. James Dean died half a century ago because he was going at top speed on a country road. It was his own fault he got his ass killed. Just because I own a car similar to his doesn't mean I'm going to suffer the same fate. If I die, I die, and that's that. I'm not gonna let AJ get to me; I'm not even going to think about it anymore. What's past is past. I got my own life to live.
An idea popped into his head. You know, I just might use that car in a demonstration. Yeah! Something really spectacular, better than the Lambo demonstration! I don't know what I'm going to do, but it's gonna be a big (bleeping) surprise! And when I do, it's gonna put a bug so far up AJ's ass he's gonna feel it for the rest of his life!
He looked back at the creamy Spyder cooling its engine in its designated spot. Yeah, he thought, it just might be worth it after all.
Detective Jim Meridian sorted through his office mail: court appearances in one pile, department business in another, time sheets and mileage reimbursements in another, miscellaneous in the trash basket. He stuffed the third pile into a file folder in his desk without opening them--he knew what he wrote, so why bother? The second pile was mostly formalities, with the occasional memo of department meetings and minor policy changes. Then he went through the first pile one summons at a time so he could schedule them into his planner:
State v. Bellemy. Court date, May the eleventh at ten AM. Armed robbery ending in the death of the owner of a convenience store. The store security tapes caught the whole thing, so it was pretty much an open-and-shut case. Bellemy would do well to plead guilty and avoid the death penalty, Meridian thought.
State v. Elwell. Court date, May thirty-first at eleven AM. Domestic dispute. Holly Elwell had pleaded self-defense in killing her boyfriend, claiming he had abused her during her two-and-a-half year relationship. She had cracked him over the skull with a beer bottle when he allegedly threatened her with a carving knife back in October. Given the victim's past history of violence, she could get off with ten years for manslaughter with possibility of parole.
State v. Olmstead and Paulie. Court date, June tenth, ten AM. The two defendants had been members of the notorious Aryan Church of America, the white supremacist group who had terrorized Las Vegas last year. Michael Olmstead and Timothy Paulie had beaten Carlo Pavan in the parking garage of the Luxor because the latter had spotted them posting flyers for their rally in Sunset Park. Pavan died of his injuries two days later. The ACA was history, but there would be no closure for the Pavan family until these two were convicted. They were prime candidates for Death Row.
State v. Piccucci. Court date, December seventeenth, ten AM. Meridian felt a sour taste in his mouth. He had hoped for at least a full year before Pamela Piccucci would go on trial, but it seemed the wheels of justice turned faster than he thought. It wasn't the murders themselves he found distateful, it was the motive behind them. Pamela had murdered her cheating husband gangland style, blowing him up in his car, then strangled her blackmailing mother-in-law in a hotel bathroom. Not only that, she had threatened the innocent Casey Worth with two death threats and a fake bomb. Then she held not only Casey and the only eyewitness hostage, but also Casey's new employer, Daniel "Springs" Springer, and the Luxor's hottest attraction, illusionist Criss Angel. The involvement of the latter alone had hyped the whole affair way out of proportion. If Angel got called in as a witness, the whole trial was going to turn into a media circus. Meridian found the name of the presiding judge: Hendershot. He knew Judge Hendershot was old school when it came to presiding over trials, whatever the case. Knowing him, it would be a closed session with no media or visitors to preserve the integrity of the court.
Meridian marked down the case in his planner. He had done his part; all the evidence was sealed up and filed away, ready to be presented before the court. For now, the lawyers would battle it out, plea bargaining themselves hoarse, filing injunctions, demanding this piece of evidence be kept or that piece to be thrown out. Then the jury would be selected, and then the whole sordid affair would be presented before the formidable Judge Hendershot. Even with solid evidence against Pamela Piccucci, no results were certain. She could get off on a technicality, she could sway the jury with the wounded widow routine, or the jury could vote her innocent in spite of what evidence presented to them.
Or she could just not show up at all. Meridian had a few cases where the defendant was a no-show, resulting in a fugitive charge and thousands of tax dollars wasted in finding the culprit. The only difference was that Pamela had the means to escape, just like Andrew Luster, the Max Factor heir accused of an appalling eighty-seven cases of sexual assault. He was living in Mexico when he got nailed by the famous bounty hunter, Duane "Dog" Chapman. He hoped it wouldn't come to that in Pamela's case, but he had learned from long, hard experience that when dealing with criminals, anything was possible. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst--that was his motto.
After a total of twentysome years on the force, however, it seemed to Jim Meridian that he was always doing the latter more than the former. Working in Homicide did not exactly give one a sunny view of life. Cmplacency was death, either his own or or someone else's: he had to be on his toes every waking minute, or else a culprit would either escape and kill another innocent victim or come after him. Pamela Piccucci might not be gunning for him, but one never truly knew the mind of a killer. All he could do was take it one day at a time until the trial. Meanwhile, he had other things on his to-do list, like reduce his caseload and appear in court next week. No rest for the weary, he thought, just so there would be no rest for the wicked.