For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
Cesar's Palace…Las Vegas...Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…12:30pm
Judy Looney checked her wristwatch for the umpteenth time; it was two minutes later than the last time she checked. Apparently Whitey Roode's friends were all assholes! At least this Wally character was turning out to be, especially where promptness was concerned. Oh, and he had a pretty fucked up attitude as well. You know, for a so called crime fighter he had absolutely zero tack with the whole damsel in distress concept! She'd been hiding in plain sight for over an hour now, knee deep in wannabe players pissing away little "Johnny or Jane's" college tuition on the chance that the next spin of the wheel would bring home the jackpot.
Wally told her to lay low in the Keno parlor because traffic was heavy there as people had to pass through it to get to either the gaming tables on one side or the slots on the other. He said that he'd meet her there in a few, in a few what? She'd taken that to mean a few minutes, but apparently that hours or God forbid, days! Judy felt so conspicuous, positively naked. She was convinced that whoever was after her was close by, really close. Her poor neck ached from jerking it this way and that with every sudden movement or new face. She was exhausted from trying to cover the circumference of the room with all six of her senses, and was about to leave when the Wally showed up abruptly, the prick!
"Dr. Looney I presume," he said in a monotone that came off as condescending, befitting his personality. Not a good first impression.
"Jesus Christ! You startled me," she blurted, holding a hand to her face trying to push the screech that escaped her lips right back into her mouth.
"You're Detective Price?" Judy asked composing herself.
"In the flesh, may I sit down?" Wally asked in a gracious tone that Judy didn't expect.
"Ahh, sure be my guest," she answered, unconsciously scooting to the far edge of her own seat.
Wally Price sat beside her and quickly surveyed the room from this new perspective. Actually he had been there the whole time having arrived shortly before Judy had. Like any detective worth his salt he knew that the Boy Scouts had the right idea, be prepared. He had positioned himself at a "Wheel of Fortune" slot machine facing the Keno Room to keep a look out for her. While he waited he memorized every face in the general area. He was looking for anyone who gave Judy more than a casual glance when she showed up. Everyone notices at a beautiful woman, and Judy Looney was a dish, but a trained observer like Wally Price, one with thirty years experience hunting bad guys could spot someone with murder in their eyes. The eyes are the mirrors to the soul, or so they say.
He had followed her at a safe distance when she walked into the casino and headed for the Keno Parlor. She found a seat with her back to the wall. Smart girl he thought, Whitey knows his dolls. He studied her nervously watching everyone else. It was probably a little unfair to let her sweat like that, but if anything was going to happen it would happen when the perp felt safe enough to try. That was an axiom in the murder game. Wally waited until his instincts told him it was all clear before approaching her. Sure, he could have been up front with her about all of this preparation but it was safer this way. It was better she that she wasn't wise to his tactics lest she shout out a big HELLO at exactly the wrong moment! Wally let her study him a moment before opening his yap again.
"Alright Dr. Looney…" he began.
"Call me Judy, please," she said interrupting him.
"Alright Judy, let's get down to it. Whitey says you have some kind of micro thingamajig containing some pretty interesting shit, I mean stuff, sorry. Some stuff that the Russian mob in LA might be willing to kill for. Is that about it?" he asked, leaning in close so that her reply couldn't be overheard easily. Judy flinched, answering without hesitating.
"Yeah, that's it in a nutshell I guess. I mean I don't know anything about the Russian mob, I didn't even know such a thing existed. Anyway, the only mobsters that I know are Brando and Pacino from those Godfather movies," she said managing a weak smile. Wally cleared his throat and leaned in close enough to whisper in her ear.
"Tell me the truth, did you read everything on that chip," he whispered. Judy nodded in the affirmative pursing her lips as she felt his breath on her neck. It made her uncomfortable. The man was big, like Whitey said, but she didn't remember Whitey saying he wore a beard? Didn't cops have to be clean shaven or wear a cheesy moustache? OH well, what did she know. She was happy to have a little muscle around to look after her and Ronnie. His breath wasn't overpowering but it was enveloping her at the moment. He must have had lamb and saffron rice for lunch she thought, picking up on those distinct aromas. Persian food was a favorite of hers.
"Tell me the truth again, did Whitey read it also," he asked, his tone remaining hushed?
This time she shook her head in the negative, she was lying, but her instincts told her to do so, she didn't know why? She waited for Wally to move away, but he didn't. He whispered in her ear once more.
"Are you quite sure that you're telling me the truth Judy? Think it over carefully, your life may depend on it," he said a little louder this time.
That was it! Judy was officially more pissed than scared now and she was about to tell him where to get off when she heard a soft "pffft" sound and Detective Price suddenly slumped onto her shoulder. She tried to push him off of her but he was heavy, like dead weight. She discovered why instantly when she saw a tiny trail of blood trickle down his forehead and into two very open very cold and very dead eyes. Judy swallowed a scream and pulled him back to her like a long lost lover and surveyed the crowed room. Nobody seemed to notice anything was out of the ordinary even though she could actually hear her own heartbeat booming like the cannonade from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony! She started thinking about what to do next but she didn't get to think very long. A split second later a gruff older man in a tattered gray suit walked up to her. He sat down confidently and quietly as you please; on the opposite side of the dead weight resting on her shoulder. Mr. McGruff held a chubby forefinger up to his lips and told her to shut up with his eyes, which looked as cold as the ones on the stiff on her shoulder, only his were blue instead of shit brown like Wally's.
The ragtag man, in his late fifties she guessed, reached over and felt for a pulse with one hand, flashing his LVMP credentials with the other. Judy gasped, she'd been had. The stiff on her shoulder wasn't Detective Wally Price, the man in the rumpled suit was. Judy started to swoon as if she would faint, realizing just how close she come to her own death. The real Wally Price grabbed her and stood her up in one swift movement and they were halfway to the nearest exit before she caught enough breath to say anything.
"WAIT, WAIT!" she hissed shaking loose from the hold Wally had on her.
"What the hell was that? Who the hell was that?"
"Not here Dr. Looney, let's take it outside before someone figures out that fella we left back there isn't just sleeping it off," Wally said quietly but forcefully.
Judy sized him up quickly, how did she know that this was the real Wally Price? She never saw the guy before and Whitey never actually described him other than to say he was big and that he was an old friend willing to help us. She was scared and this guy was standing on her last raw nerve. She felt a panic attack coming on when he suddenly said the magic word.
"Stifle yourself doll face, Uncle Wally has everything under control," he said nonchalantly.
Only Whitey Roode's friends talked that way, like they walked straight out of a Humphrey Boart movie, minus the cigarette though, none of Whitey's friends smoked, that was weird that she remembered that all of the sudden? It was weirder given the jam she was in, but that's how the human psyche works, it distracts you from painful experiences in the oddest ways.
"Okay, okay, just tell me you're the real Wally Price, Detective Wally Price," she said calming down, allowing him to gently take her by the arm again and lead her out of the casino.
"That's right sweetness, Detective Wallace Jordan Price, at your service. Now, let's get the fuck out of here, I've got some more bad news for you. Guess this is your unlucky day sweetheart, sorry bout that," Wally said as they passed through the glass door into an unseasonably hot February afternoon.
Judy flinched as they exited the air-conditioned casino and walked out into the daylight. A blast of hot air hit her square in the face as she quickly put on her pair of cheap carwash shades. Wally steered her toward the parking lot and his waiting car. In spite of the danger all Judy could think of at this very moment was that his car better have AC! Detective Price squinted in the glare of the noonday sun and studied the area in front of them, doing a full 180 degrees sweep. His senses were peaking and he was on full combat alert. He knew he didn't drop the Arab back there. And sure as shit, whoever did shoot the poor bastard was watching them both right this very minute, taking aim and just waiting for the right moment to squeeze off a couple of kill shots!