01-24-2012, 08:52 PM
"Good morning, Mr. Springer," Casey said cheerfully as she brought breakfast into the dining room.
"Mornin'," Springs returned, looking up from the morning's copy of the New York Times. Though he had lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, for most of his adult life, Springs still preferred the Times over the Las Vegas Sun. Local papers were fine after a fashion, but nothing beat the Gray Lady for news; besides, the Times had better crossword puzzles in his opinion.
Casey set the breakfast tray in front of the old man. "Are you going golfing again today, Mr. Springer?" she asked.
Springs shook his head. "Nah, I'm goin' to the Luxor for a while, do some gamblin', have a drink or two."
The mention of the Luxor triggered Casey's memory. "Oh, Mr. Springer?"
"I got a summons from the District Court yesterday," Casey said hesitantly. "They're calling me in for a witness in Mrs. Piccucci's trial in December. The seventeenth, I think it is."
Springs looked up at her. "Piccucci trial, is it?"
"Yes, sir. You remember, don't you?"
"Like I remember Pearl Harbor," Springs growled. "Well, I got news for you, Cassie."
"It's Casey, sir."
"Whatever. Anyway, I got a tip from the computer that Pamela Piccucci skipped bail, and she's been living in Hawai'i with some rich guy from Canada."
Casey was shocked. "She escaped?!"
"It's seems so, yeah."
"Well, don't you think we should report this to the police?"
"Already did, sweetheart," Springs assured her as he dug into his fried eggs, "already did. That gumshoe, Meridian, is tailing her right now."
"Lord, I hope so," Casey muttered. "I hope so."
She left the dining room and returned to the kitchen, shaken by this sudden turn of events. Her mother, Sharon, stood by the sink, rinsing dishes to be put into the dishwasher. Casey swallowed hard. "Mom?"
"Yeah, hon, what is it?"
"You know that summons I got about Mrs. Piccucci's trial?"
Sharon loaded a stack of plates into the dishwasher. "You get time off for it?" she asked.
"It's not that," Casey mumbled. "I don't know if there's even going to be a trial."
Sharon looked up. "What are you talking about?" she demanded.
"Mr. Springer told me that she jumped bail and escaped to Hawai'i."
Sharon set down the plates. "She ran off?"
Casey nodded. "Mr. Springer says Detective Meridian is going after her, but it's over a thousand miles to Hawai'i, and that's out of his jurisdiction or something like that. How's he going to go after her?"
Sharon smiled reassuringly. "Now don't you worry about that, hon," she said. "Detective Meridian is a very smart man--he'll figure something out. Now, help me clean up this kitchen so we can drive Mr. Springer to the Luxor. And don't worry, everything's going to turn out just fine."
If Detective Jim Meridian had heard what Sharon told her daughter that morning, he would have disagreed. Since he had been on the Piccucci case from day one, the chief had assigned him the responsibility of bringing Pamela Piccucci back. The credit card statements Evidence had examined turned out to be a dead end--she had not used her cards since April, and the majority were overdue notices. Her bank account had been emptied the day after she had been released on bail, meaning she had been gone for six months. Meridian had called the DMV to get her driver's license and the VIN number of her car to see if he could get any information that way. It turned out that she had changed her name on her driver's license to Petersen, and the car had been sold to some small independent dealer for seven grand in cash.
That was all Meridian needed for now. Thanks to Springs, he knew where she was. Thanks to the DMV, he knew her alias. Now, all he needed was the means to get her back to Nevada--and to prison where she belonged.
He downloaded the number to the Honolulu Police Department and called them, hoping the chief wouldn't go into conniptions for making a thousand-mile long-distance call.
"Police Department," spoke a deep voice with a trace of island native. "Sergeant Maole speaking."
"Sergeant, this is Detective Jim Meridian of the Las Vegas Municipal Police Department," Meridian said. "We have a fugitive wanted for double murder, and we got a tip that she's in Honolulu."
Sergeant Maole didn't seem surprised when he heard this. Hawai'i was over a thousand miles from the mainland, making it the destination of choice for many fugitives from the law, especially if they were well off enough to afford it. "What's the fugitive's name?" he asked routinely.
"Pamela Piccucci, alias Pamela Petersen," Meridian answered. "She's with some rich Canadian. I got her record on file here. You want me to fax it to you?"
"That'd be a good idea," Sergeant Maole said. He gave Meridian the fax number for the Honolulu Police Department Criminal Investigation division and instructed him to put "Confidential" on the cover sheet. "If you have a photo of her, we'd appreciate it," he added.
Meridian nodded. "Fine," he said, scribbling down the number. "Thanks for your help, Sergeant."
"Not a problem."
The two officers said goodbye and hung up. Meridian gathered up Pamela's file with her mug shot and headed for the fax machine down the hall. The damn thing better be working! he said to himself. I don't have all day for this.
Meridian arrived at the hole in the wall of an office where the copier and the fax machine were kept. He filled out the cover sheet according to Sergeant Maole's instructions and ran the files through the machine. Then came a frustrating two minutes' delay while he waited for the confirmation. Finally, the sheet slid out of the slot and landed in the paper tray. Meridian snatched it up; to his relief, his fax had gone through without any trouble. "Ball's in your court, Maole," he said. "Good luck."
Springs sat at the blackjack table, watching the dealer shuffle the cards. He had just laid a hundred-dollar bet for starters; with luck, he could double it. A lovely waitress from the bar bought him a Manhattan, setting it on a paper coaster in front of him. For Springs, it was just like old times.
"I come for the Manhattans," Springs said aloud as he raised his glass to eye level, "but I stay for the cards."
He took a swig and examined the cards before him, a five and a ten. All he needed was a six to make twenty-one. "Hit me," he ordered the dealer.
Another card was laid on the table. A four. "Hit me," Springs repeated.
A two turned up. "Twenty-one," he said, smiling in triumph.
The dealer pushed a stack of chips toward the former gangster. Springs was about to make another bet when he saw a familiar face over at another table. Oh, yeah, that magician--what was his name?--Something Angel. Damn, he was so lousy with names! He couldn't even get his caregiver's name straight, for chrissakes! Oh, well, at least he got the last name right.
Springs picked up his chips and his drink, and crossed over to the table where Something Angel was working. Poor guy, he thought, his magic act must be going down the crapper if he's gotta moonlight as a blackjack dealer. Things are tough all over, I guess.
He watched as Angel deftly worked the cards, shuffling them, tossing them in the air and deftly catching them, fanning them out in front of the two good-looking dames seated at the table. "Now watch," he heard him say.
To the women's amazement, two cards appeared face up from the deck spread out before them. "Are these your cards?" he asked.
The women nodded, completely astonshed. Angel swept up the cards and put them away. Springs stepped up to the table. He couldn't help but notice that the blackjack table had Angel's picture on it, with the caption CRISS ANGEL MINDFREAK emblazoned across it. Springs set his chips down. "So, you deal blackjack, too?" he asked.
Criss smiled, recognizing the former mobster. "Springs!" he cheered. "How's it been?"
"Good," Springs nodded. "So, what's this setup? Your magic act not goin' over, so you gotta deal blackjack?"
Criss shook his head. "No, the magic's fine," he replied, laughing. "This is my own table, where I perform my card demonstrations." He leaned over conspiritorially. "Actually, they don't let me gamble here," he half-whispered. "They're afraid I'll cheat them out of their money. I just come her to do magic."
Springs smiled at that. A guy with his talent would have had his kneecaps shattered with a baseball bat back in the old days, he thought. No casino liked losing money then, no more than they did now, and pit bosses were as notorious as pit bulldogs when it came to card cheats.
He set his chips on the table. "Okay," he said. "Impress me."
Criss spread out the deck of cards. "Pick a card," he said.
Springs chose the Queen of Hearts. "Now, I want you to sign it," Criss instructed, handing him a pen, "then give it back to me."
Springs scrawled his name on the card and returned it to Criss. Criss shuffled the card back into the deck, then fanned them out on the table. "Think you can find your card?" he asked Springs.
"You're the Houdini here, not me," Springs said.
Criss refanned the cards. Right there was the Queen of Hearts. "Not bad," Springs said. "You're pretty good, you know that?"
"Thanks," Criss said, smiling at the understatement. "By the way, how's Casey?"
"Casey? Oh, she's good, real good. Got her ma working with her at my house. She said she got a summons to appear in court for the trial."
"The Piccucci trial?"
"Yeah, that one. You goin'?"
"I have to," Criss replied. "I got a summons, too."
"Well, it seems everyone involved got one," Springs said, "but there might not be a trial if they don't find her."
Criss became concerned. "What do you mean by that?"
"I mean Pamela skipped out of town and ended up in Hawai'i,' Springs explained. "Shacked up with some rich Canadian guy in Honolulu. Saw her mug on the news on the computer. Recognized her dead on."
Pamela? Skipping out on bail? In Hawai'i? Criss pondered this. "Thanks for the info, Springs," he said.
"Not a problem," Springs said. "So, you gonna deal or what?"
"Sorry, Springs," Criss said, gathering up his cards, "this table's closed."
He dashed away from the table and headed for his office. Once there, he picked up his phone and shuffled though the Rolodex for the number of Da Kine Bail Bonds in Hawai'i. Once he located it, he called the only person he knew who could find Pamela Piccucci.
"Hello, Dog?" he said. "This is Criss Angel."
A pause while Duane "Dog" Chapman heartily greeted him. "Yeah, good to hear from you, too. Say, listen, this is an official call. I want you to be on the lookout for a Pamela Piccucci..."
Sergeant Maole wasted no time in alerting his forces about Pamela Piccucci, alias Pamela Petersen, at large somewhere in Honolulu. The mug shot was enlarged and copies were distributed to all all patrolling officers, particularly in the weathier parts of the capital. She may be in disguise, he told them, wearing a wig or something. If they happened to pull her over for a routine traffic stop, they were to arrest her immediatly or detain her until backup arrived. It wasn't clear if she was armed, but everyone was to assume she was, just in case. She was a double murderer, he told them; God only knew what she was capable of.
The phone on Maole's desk rang. He picked it up in the middle of the first ring. "Sergeant Maole here," he droned.
"Sergeant? This is Duane Chapman."
Maole was a bit surprised over who was calling. He knew the famous "Dog", the bounty hunter from his television program as all of Hawai'i did, but never had he received a personal phone call from him. "How can I help you, Mr. Chapman?" he asked.
"First of all, you can drop the 'mister'," Chapman said. "It's just 'Dog', okay? And second of all, there's a fugitive in Honolulu by the name of Pamela Piccucci, aka Petersen. She's jumped bail, and she's wanted for two counts of first-degree murder. Unfortunatly, I don't have a description of her--"
"Save your breath, Dog," Maole interrupted. "I got a call from a Detective Jim Meridian in Las Vegas. He faxed over all the info about Pamela not too long ago. By the way, how did you hear of it, anyway?"
"I got a tip from a friend of mine," Dog replied. "Criss Angel. He heard it from someone who was mixed up in that whole estate mess, a Mr. Springer, aka Springs--used to be a former gangster from way back. It's a long story, but I know Criss wouldn't lie to me."
"Well, I'm sure of that, Dog," Maole said.
There was a brief pause while the sergeant pondered his next move. He knew Dog wasn't on the Big Island, but a fugitive could move easily from one island to the next. With a double murderer on the loose, even a female, he would need all the help he could get to apprehend her. And very few people had a track record of capturing fugitives as Duane "Dog" Chapman.
"Tell you what," Maole said finally. "I'm going to fax the file I got on Pamela Piccucci to you. If she's in your neighborhood, bring her in. I can't say if she's armed or not, but don't take any chances with her, okay?"
"Got it," Dog agreed. "And thanks, Sergeant."
"And thank you, Dog."
The conversation ended. All Duane Chapman could do now was to wait for the fax from Honolulu to come in. Once he had her file, Pamela Piccucci's little ass was his. He made a mental note to send Criss Angel a thank-you note or something for the four-one-one on her he had given him. Tips from friends and ordinary citizens made his job a lot easier.
Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, Springs was still in the Luxor, discreetly counting his winnings for the afternoon. He had to be very careful not to flash the cash in public; he knew from long experience that pickpockets and muggers lurked around every corner to relieve unsuspecting gamblers of their money. Security was more sophisticated these days, granted, but that was no excuse for carelessness. Besides, at his advanced age, Springs made for an easier target than others--elderly people were more vulnerable, therefore more likely to be robbed. Keep in the open areas, and watch your back, he told himself, and you'll do just fine.
Springs had enjoyed an unprecedented streak of good luck in the casino; he had seven hundred dollars more than when he first started. He had celebrated with another Manhattan, but he still felt empty inside. What he needed was some company, preferably the female kind. No funny business--he was way past that--just companionship, someone to talk to. He looked around the casino, eyeing the attractive women walking around the joint. Springs heaved a deep sigh. They were all so young and beautiful, he thought. Probably already had boyfriends, if they weren't married already. Who'd want to hang around with an old fart like him?
Springs shuffled out of the casino and into the atrium. Maybe I'll have better luck in the lounge, he thought. That's where I met my last two wives, in a bar. Not the same bar, of course, but in a bar. Well, let's see if third time's the charm.
The lounge was practically deserted in the midafternoon hour. Only a few people sat in their own little corners, nursing their drinks and trying to forget about life for a while. Springs was about to head for the nearest barstool when he spotted a head of long black hair sitting in a booth all alone. He decided to risk a slap in the face from whomever she was and make contact with her. He strode over to the table and turned on the charm. The long black hair stayed in place, not noticing his approach.
"Hey, there," he purred. "Like a little company?"
The head turned. It was an elderly woman's face, a bit withered but not unattractive. She looked up at him warily. He didn't seem threatening to her, so she said, "No, I don't mind," in a strangely accented voice.
Springs sat down across the table and made himself comfortable. "So, this your first visit to Las Vegas?" he asked casually.
"No, not really," the woman replied. "I am here visiting my son, Christopher." She pronounced it "Christaphaa". Springs wondered where she was from, originally.
He feigned regret. "Oh, where are my manners?" he mockingly lamented. "Allow me to introduce myself--Daniel Springer. Everyone calls me Springs."
The woman giggled at the comical nickname. "I am Dimitra," she said. "Dimitra Sarantakos."
"Hoo! That's quite a handle there," Springs commented. "Sounds Greek."
"Is Greek," Dimitra told him. "I was born there. I came here to America with my family when I was about thirteen. My husband was born Greek, too."
A red flag went up in Springs' mind. "Your husband anywhere around here?" he asked casually but cautiously.
Dimitra sadly shook her head. "No," she replied. "John passed away eleven years ago."
The red flag lowered. "Sorry to hear that."
Springs shifted in his seat. "So, what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" he asked jovially.
Dimitra chuckled at that stale old line. "Oh, I'm just waiting for my son, Christaphaa, to meet me for lunch. He's so busy with his shows, I hardly get to see him anymore."
"What's he do, anyway?"
Dimitra found a card listing the shows and other events the Luxor Hotel and Resort offered. Among the list of performances was an ad for Believe with a picutre of Criss Angel upon it. "That is my Christaphaa," she said with not a little maternal pride.
Springs studied the picture. That's her son? he wondered in amazement. Hell, I just got through talkin' to him in the casino! Ha! Ain't life a crock? "Oh, yeah!" he said. "I met him before."
"That does not surprise me one bit," Dimitra said drily.
"Hey, lady, you don't know the half of it!" Springs retorted, and he went on to explain Criss' unwitting involvement in the Piccucci Affair, his heroic act in bringing down Pamela Piccucci, and his recent encounter in the casino earlier that afternoon. Dimitra began mentally connecting what her famous son had told her to Springs' story and realized she was talking to a former mobster. Sitting with someone who had Mafia ties was a bit unsettling, but on the other hand, he seemed nice enough, he knew her son Christopher, and he looked lonely; she reminded herself that she shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
Son Christopher arrived, his massive collection of jewled pendants jingling as he strode in. "Hey, Ma, how ya doin'?" he said, bending over to give her a kiss. Upon rising, he noticed Springs. "Springs?" he said, startled to see him seated next to his mother, "what're you doin' here?"
"Oh, nothin'," Springs replied airily, "just enjoying a bit of company with the lovely lady here, that's all."
Dimitra blushed. Criss grew wary. Is this guy hitting on my mom? he wondered. "So, you ready for lunch?" he asked his mother, offering his arm to her not so much out of courtesy than to pull her away from Springs.
Dimitra took it and rose. "Do you mind if Mr. Springer here joins us?" she asked. "He's a friend of yours, or so he tells me."
Criss hadn't planned on making this lunch date a threesome, but he agreed, if only to act as a sort of chaperone, and to scope out Springs' motive concerning his mother. He guessed that Springs had to be in his eighties, almost a decade older than Dimitra, so he was relatively harmless as far as anything physical was concerned, but Criss could not help feeling an undercurrent of...what? Distrust? Fear? Danger?
Or, maybe, jealousy?
No, that was ridiculous! he thought. He had no reason to be jealous of Springs. Dimitra was his mother, for chrissakes, not his girlfriend! It wasn't like they were in love or anything--they just met barely a few minutes ago. A lonely old man strikes up a conversation with a woman sitting all by herself in a bar--perfectly natural, he reasoned. Why the hell should he feel so possessive all of a sudden?
Because he didn't want any harm to come to her, Criss admitted to himself. Because Springs had been a former mobster, and who knew what he was capable of? And because he was still loyal to the memory of his father, God rest his soul. The thought of his mother remarrying, especially at her age, would have seemed like a betrayal.
Criss looked at Springs and his mother Dimitra strolling next to each other, chatting about this and that. No kissing, no handholding, no sweet nothings whispered into each other's ears, just casual conversation between two elderly people. He began to regret his suspicions. Maybe he was spinning his wheels over nothing, he thought. Maybe he was jumping to conclusions. His mother had been a widow for eleven years now. She deserved to have friends her own age, whether male or female. If she wanted to have a relationship with another man, well, who was he to stop her? He couldn't live her life for her. Besides, she was smart enough to know what she wanted. She was stronger than people took for granted.
As for Springs, well, he was okay, despite his criminal past. Casey Worth insisted that Mr. Springer was really a nice man, really he was, that he was "retired" from "the rackets" and had been a law-abiding citizen for years. Besides, he was too old and feeble to physically harm Dimitra in any way; you could tell by the way he shuffled as he walked, and didn't he have a stomach transplant a year ago? And he couldn't be after her for her money, Criss reasoned, because he had plenty of that already. Maybe he was just a lonely old man who sought out the company of a lonely old woman who just happened to be his mother. Maybe he should just stop worrying and stay out of it.
Still, Criss couldn't help but feel uneasy about the budding relationship between his mother and the former gangster, but he couldn't simply order her to stop seeing him. All he could do was adopt a wait-and-see attitude. If everything worked out to everyone's satisfaction, fine, no problem, he could deal with it. So long as his mother was happy, he had nothing to worry about.
But if you hurt Mom in any way, Criss mentally threatened Springs, so help me, God, I'll go Tony Soprano on your sorry ass! Me, and my brothers, and my cousins, too! You mess with Mom, you mess with our whole family! So, you'd better treat her right, Springs, or else!