Chapter 1 *

The woman was reclined as her make-up was being applied. The foundation had been smoothed out on her silky skin and then rouge was added for color. Mascara was spread across her eyelashes, and then liner to bring out her eyelids. The person doing the make-up was looking through the various lipsticks in the make-up kit, to decide which color would make her look pouty and sexy. A deep shade of red was selected and applied to her lips. It was then smeared over her cheeks and finally the red was streaked over each eye. She now had a face that looked like the Joker from the Batman movie. She didn't care, she was dead.

~~*~~

I was relaxing in my office waiting for Lacey to come bombing in, telling me there was an emergency that needed my attention. She loved to startle me whenever a person came in looking for a private investigator. I had a good staff and associates, Trapper and Earl, both very competent investigators, but a bit goofy at times. It was something that broke up the tension of dealing with missing children or murder.

My good friend and business partner, Buck, took care of the security guard part of our business. He now had about a hundred and sixty men on his roster, all guarding various businesses in and around Las Vegas. I had moved my lovely wife, and now Vegas' favorite talk show host, Penny, out to Vegas to live. She fell in love with the town on our earlier visits. After we came out, Buck, Trapper and then Earl all joined us in Sin City. We left Michigan with all the snow and cold, for the hot, sunny life in Vegas. I never regretted the move. Neither did Penny.

I was suddenly startled by a tug on my pant leg. I looked down to see Willy, our toy Yorkie, pulling on my pant cuff. I smiled and reached down to pet him and pull him off my cuff. I hadn't seen him come into the room; he was so small and easy to miss. Now Penny wasn't so easy to miss, as she came in the office. She was a beautiful woman for her age. Not that I complain about age, I was now sixty-three and still feeling like thirty. Age doesn't mean a damn thing when you're trapped in an older body. Penny was a couple years younger, but looked like she was in her forties, and still sexy as ever.

"What were you daydreaming about?" she asked me, as she sat in the client chair at my desk.

"You in a bikini," I joked, as I looked to the poster of her in a bikini, on my wall. I had it made from a picture I took while we were on a ship cruise that resulted in murders.

"I'm glad you have that poster, so you don't daydream about any other woman. Are you working on a case?" she asked.

"No, I'm bored here, thinking about going out for lunch. Want to join me?"

"I think you should wait for Lacey to tell you that there is a client in the lobby."

I was surprised about that, and wondered why Lacey hadn't called me yet. Lacey suddenly came flying in my door.

"Jim, you have a person out here and he needs help. I should tell you that he is hunky and handsome. He's a model!" she beamed and went back out.

Penny smiled and said, "I almost stayed in the lobby to watch his cute butt, but I saw Willy coming in here, so I followed."

"Cute butt? What's wrong with my cute butt?"

"Yours is cute too, but there's so much more of it." She smiled, as I stood.

"Are you insinuating I have a large butt?" I protested, as I headed towards the door.

"I'm not insinuating, I'm stating, you have a large butt."

I kissed her on the head and left the room. She followed seconds later.

I went through the glass doors to the lobby and saw him, he was hunky and handsome. I hated him right off. "May I help you?" I asked Mr. Wonderful.

Penny went behind him in the lobby and I could see she was checking out his body. He was wearing a red t-shirt and tight white jeans. I gave her a look and she smiled back to me.

"Mr. Richards, you were referred to me by a former client of yours, Stacey Trent," the Adonis said.

I cringed hearing the name, remembering her from the Black Widow murders. Her husband was killed by the spiders, and then we suspected her of the crime. She later proved to be innocent, but she was still a wacko.

"I remember her well. Shall we go to my office to talk?"

He followed me and then I pointed out my door, stopping to block Penny from following.

"You don't need to be in there. Go bother Lacey or something," I said as I went to the office, watching her in the hallway giving me dirty looks. I smiled to her, waved and closed the door. I knew that was going to bite me in the large butt later.

"Now, you are?"

"Barry Polander, I'm a model for the Lansome Modeling Agency. I do photo shoots for men's clothing and runway work when needed."

"So, why do you need a private investigator?"

"Actually, I don't. I need a bodyguard. I understand that you have people who protect celebrities."

I wondered how he figured he rated as a celebrity, but he must have money, so I wouldn't feel bad taking some of it. "Yes, we do have bodyguards to watch over celebrities. Why do you feel you need one?"

"Have you seen the news this morning?"

"Sorry, I haven't seen the newspaper yet, or watched TV. What was there that I should know?"

"Tiffy Blumquest, the runway model, was murdered sometime last night. And threats were made to other models. I'm not taking chances, so I came to you."

"I see. I'll have to talk to a couple friends of mine on the LVMPD about the murder. How soon do you want to start?"

"As soon as possible, I have a career to think about, and I make good money at it."

I liked hearing that. "Okay, I have a person who would do well for you," I said thinking about Angelo, my former mob enforcer friend, who move here from New York and started working for us. "He's someone who will not let anyone near you that you don't want."

"Is he tough?"

"Let me just say he used to be a leg breaker for a mob family out in New York. Is that tough enough?"

He got a big smile and said, "I like that. I'm from New York, would I know of the family?"

"Traviano, does that ring a bell?"

His eyes went wide, "Wow, yes. When do I get to meet him?"

"Hold on," I said as I went to the door and out. I went down to Buck's office and found Angelo relaxing in a chair on the side of the room. Buck was behind his desk doing paperwork, which he hated, but it had to be done. Angelo saw me and stood.

"Mr. R., good ta see ya dis morning." He was breaking back into his pattern of mob talk. Then he smiled and said, "I'll rephrase that, how are you this morning?" he grinned. "I'm trying to refine myself, I am rubbing elbows with famous people now."

I knew his job had put him guarding a number of really big celebrities who came to visit Vegas, so he had to project a better image.

"Angelo, you sound very refined. I have a case for you, if Buck has nothing else for you?"

Buck spoke, "You can have him, I've got nothing."

"Thanks. Follow me then." He came out after me and to my office. We went in and I introduced him to Barry. They shook hands, as Barry was looking surprised at the size of Angelo.

"Good to meet you, Barry," Angelo said. "You need protection, from whom?" he said with perfect diction.

They sat as Barry explained the murder and his concern. Angelo sat listening and then smiled.

"No, problem. I won't let you get hurt in anyway. But you have to listen to me when I give an order to do something, like get behind me."

"I can do that, I don't need to be murdered. Are we good to go?" Barry asked.

"Sure, just stop on the way out to give the retainer to my receptionist and you can leave. You can be sure that Angelo is the man for your needs." I was sounding like a commercial.

They went out and I sat back in my chair as Penny came storming in. She closed the door and came over to sit on my lap. "Feel like fooling around?" she asked.

"In the office? How tempting. Or are you horny from seeing the Greek God?"

"Well, he may have given me the idea, but you know he could never replace you."

"I think you'd try. But there is no replacing me."

My door flew open and in walked Trapper. "Oops, am I interrupting something?"

"I think a closed door means that you are interrupting something," I said.

"Sorry, but I got a call from my gal Sam, she's invited me to go out of town with her, and I wanted to let you know."

"Okay, you've told me, now go and let us go back to what we were doing."

He went out and I reached over to my desk intercom and called Lacey. "Hold my calls and I'm now unavailable. Watch Willy and don't let me be disturbed."

"Okay, but you and Penny need to keep the noise down," she laughed and hung up.

*

Chapter 2 *

Penny did more fooling around than she did any serious damage to my body. "You're teasing me, aren't you? Just to get a rise out of me."

"Is it working?" she asked.

I wasn't going to answer that if she couldn't tell. Lacey buzzed me on the intercom. I gave a dirty look to it and answered. "What did I ask you?"

"Not to disturb you, but you may want to come out here and see this," She said and hung up.

I carefully pushed Penny off my lap and stood, adjusting my crotch.

"Oh, I did get a little rise, eh?"

"Move, I'm needed," I said, and went around her to the door.

I came up the hallway and could see a number of women in the lobby, all beautiful and sexy. I probably would have to adjust my crotch again. I came through the glass doors and smiled. Penny came out behind me and stopped just behind me. I could hear her whisper, "Don't get any ideas."

"May I help you ladies?" I asked loudly, as they were all playing with Willy on the counter, making little baby noises to him. There were six of them, and they turned in unison as one came forward to say, "Mr. Richards, we need protection. Barry said you could help."

"He just left here not that long ago, how did he tell you?"

"Cell phone, he called me, and I told the girls. We have been threatened by some crazy person who killed poor Tiffy. Can you help us?"

I knew Buck would love this, "Lacey, call Buck in his office and have him come out here." She did.

"We just love your little dog," one woman squealed.

"Yes, his name is Willy," I replied.

Suddenly one woman said loudly, "Oh, look, it's Penny Wickens!" Penny was still behind me and I was just about bowled over as they all rushed to meet her. "Miss Wickens, can I have your autograph," one asked and pulled a pad from her tiny purse. Penny was loving the attention and smiled to me. I just leaned against the counter and waited for Buck.

"Actually it's Wickens-Richards now. I'm married to Jim Richards."

"Who's he, a celebrity?" One blonde asked.

"No, he's just some guy I'm married to." She gave me an evil smile and signed their books.

I gave her the finger up the side of my head. She laughed.

Shortly after, Buck ambled out. His jaw nearly dropped when he saw the bevy of beauty in the lobby. But he maintained his cool.

One woman saw him and said, "Wow, he can guard my body anytime." Buck had this effect on women. He was tall, over six feet and very muscular. He was a biker back in his youth, so he developed a devil may care look about him. He came forward and asked me, "What can I do for all these pretty ladies?"

"They need protection," I answered.

"Well ladies, if you'll follow me and Mr. Richards. We can go to my office and talk."

I went to open the glass door as one woman passed by and asked if I was married to Penny. I said I was, and she giggled then went on. Penny came up and made a giggling sound and said, "Gee, Mr. Richards, you are so lucky to be married to Miss Wickens."

I just slapped her on her behind and said, "I have business to take care of, you can stay out here."

She laughed, picked up Willy and went behind the counter to Lacey's desk and sat next to her. I went to Buck's office where he had the women sitting and standing. I went to his closet and took out a couple folding chairs he had for when he had meetings with his men. I gave them to the women and they sat. I went up by Buck's desk and stood.

"Now ladies, are you wanting individual bodyguards or as a group?" I asked.

The one woman, who seemed to be the queen bee, spoke. "I think it would be advantageous to have individual guards. We don't all travel together."

"Good, we have bodyguards that can take care of all of you. I'll get them and have it set up," Buck spoke. He stood and went out the door to the back room where his guards lounged. He picked six of his men who had pulled bodyguard work before and had them follow him.

The men entered the room and the women were ogling them. Buck went to his desk and called everyone to listen up. "Now I'll assign the men to each woman. Who is going to represent the women for the fees?"

The queen bee stood and said, "The Lansome Agency is footing the bill, they have too much to lose if any more of us die. I'll arrange for their accounting to settle the fees."

"Very good, now I'll assign you each a man. Hmm, that sounds wrong in so many ways. But you understand."

Buck took time getting the women and men hooked up as I went back out to the lobby. Penny was sitting with Lacey, as they were looking at some magazine.

"Good thing we have so much to do around here," I said.

"This is part of the job," Lacey defended. "This Las Vegas magazine has most of those women in it's pages. There's going to be a big fashion show next week and all the women are modeling. During the fashion show there's going to be a reality show taping to name the best model of the year. It's called "Greatest American Model" and will be on the Lifetime channel."

"Interesting, could be a motive for the murder of the model this morning. What's the prize?"

Lacey read the text and then said, "One million dollars and a contract to be host on a TV reality show about the fashion world. That's a good incentive to murder."

"Yes, it is. I need to talk to Lynn to see what she's got on the murder." I went back to my office passing by Buck's room, hearing all the giggles and chattering going on. Buck was probably in his glory right now, and so were his men.

 I sat at my desk and picked up the phone. I wanted to call Lynn to get her take on the murder of the model, so we could plan better to watch the women in Buck's office. Lynn, and her now husband Deacon, had come back from Hawaii after their honeymoon. They were separated from each other in the police departments, Lynn still a Lieutenant in Homicide and Deacon moved to Vice as a Sergeant. They had been our close friends since we came out here almost two years ago. Deacon came with us from Michigan and met Lynn, they fell in love and Deacon stayed.

The phone rang for a bit then Lynn answered, "Jim, what can I do for you?"

"Well, I have a whole room full of beautiful models, all wanting bodyguards from the killer of the model last night. Do you have any take on it?"

She paused, "They all came to you?"

"Yep, we are good at our job, so they want our services. Have you discovered anything that may help us to do our job better?"

"Do you have time to come down to the station?"

"Sure, I can be there in about twenty minutes."

"Good, see you then," she said and hung up.

I went back out to the lobby and told Penny I was going to LVMPD headquarters to see Lynn, if she wanted to come with me.

"Sure, I'll go. Lacey can you watch Willy?"

Lacey said she would and I went to Buck's office to tell him I was leaving.

"Okay, see ya later," he said, still surrounded by females.

Penny and I went out the back door to my van, and drove over to the station. We arrived and the officer at the door knew us by now and said to go through. We got to Lynn's office and she said to sit.

"How's it going Penny?" she asked.

"Good, you're still married and the baby still kicking?"

"Yep, it's going to be big like Deacon, I can tell."

"How much longer now?" I asked.

"Doctors say about four more months."

"I'm surprised Captain Weber hasn't put you on desk duty," I said.

"I am, but he's giving me a little latitude, told me to be honest about working Homicide or he'd pull me if I look like I can't take it."

"You have to consider the baby now," Penny said.

"I do. Now what is this about models attacking your office?"

I laughed and explained the morning to her. "Do you have anything that could help us to watch the women?"

"Yeah, be on guard for someone who does make-up."

"Okay, why?" I asked.

Lynn opened the folder in front of her and took out a couple pictures, then spread them on the desk in front of me. I moved forward and looked. It wasn't pleasant; the woman was made to look like a clown. Her throat was red from where I assumed she was strangled.

"Did she suffer or was it quick?"

"Joe Lang examined the body and said the make-up was applied after she was murdered. Made her to look this way. He said she died quickly."

"Where did this happen?" I asked.

"In her apartment, one of the other models found her early this morning. The killer also wrote on the wall, 'She's not the last to die' in lipstick. We're calling him, or her, the Lipstick Killer now."

*

Chapter 3 *

"Lipstick Killer? Have you talked to the make-up artists for the Lansome Agency? They must have a few for the models," I asked.

"I sent Greg Warren out to check on it. I didn't feel like being ugly around all the beautiful people. I'm going to have Deacon dig into it more tomorrow."

"Deacon? Why is he going to dig into it?" Penny asked.

"Oh, yeah, you don't know. Weber put him back in Homicide, to watch me. He's my safety net. I'm really hating being fat and pregnant."

"Where is he?" I inquired.

"He's standing behind you," came a deep male voice from behind me.

I looked back and there stood our favorite giant, standing in the doorway. "Deacon! Good to see you?"

"Good to see both of my favorite people. Hello Penny."

"Hi Deacon, are you getting nervous for the baby?"

"On pins and bowling balls," he smiled. "I'm the legs for Lynn now. I go into the field and bring her the info to catch the crooks. It works for me, and Weber. He's as nervous as I am."

"We'll have to make him the Godfather," Lynn added.

"Hey, I thought I would be the Godfather and Penny the Godmother." I protested.

"Jim you're sixty-six and would be dead before our baby would need to depend on you," she laughed.

"I'm only sixty-three, and have lots of years ahead of me. Weber isn't that much younger than I am."

"Don't worry about it, the time to decide hasn't arrived. Now can we talk killers?"

Deacon sat next to me and said, "Greg and I talked to the owner of Lansome Agency briefly, Kate Lansome, and she was in a rush to go to some meeting. She has an idea the murder was committed to prevent Tiffy from entering the competition. Then she rushed off. I'll have Greg and I pin her down tomorrow to explain."

"Okay, we have nothing so far," she said, then sat staring at me.

"What?" I asked.

"Since I'm restricted to my desk, maybe you could help Deacon to investigate. I have other crimes for Greg to investigate. I regret to admit it, but you seem to help out a lot."

"Seem to? I've helped with a good number of cases as a civilian consultant. I'd love to help on this case."

Penny snorted and said, "Sure, all those beautiful models, he'd be too distracted to figure out anything."

"Thank you my dear, I always keep my mind on the case, despite the suspect's appearance."

"Well, the models shouldn't be the suspects, since they were all threatened," Deacon added.

"One of them could be trying to get closer to the million dollar prize. Although, strangulation isn't really much of a method for a woman to commit. Men do most of that kind of crime," I said.

"True, but we can't rule out anyone. A determined model could garner enough strength to do the victim in," Lynn said sitting back in her chair, rubbing her protruding stomach.

"Uncomfortable?" Deacon asked.

"A little, I'll get over it. Now, you to go plot out the case, as Penny and I talk babies," she smiled.

Deacon stood and tapped my shoulder, "You don't want to be around when she talks babies. Follow me." He went out, as I stood and followed.

He led me to the breakroom, it was half full of people who probably should be working. Deacon offered me a Pepsi from the machine and made the selection. The can was semi-warm and flat. So much for precinct goodies. We sat by ourselves in a corner by a window looking out to the parking lot. Not a pretty sight.

"So what have you discovered on this case?" I asked.

"Not much, the owner of the modeling agency said she thought the model was murdered because she was a front runner to win the competition for Greatest American model. The purse was a million dollars, and hosting a national TV show. What woman wouldn't want to knock off the competition?"

"So we get the pleasure of interrogating beautiful models," I said with a grin.

"Don't let Penny or Lynn hear you say that, or we'll both be put on desk duty."

"My lips are sealed."

"This looks like a person with some make-up abilities did this, so women or make-up artists would be our first to question."

"The victim was murdered at home, any chance we can go look it over?" I asked.

"Jim, it's my case, so of course we can go there. Shall we leave and start our investigation?"

"Fine, I'll tell Penny we're going."

"How is she going to get back home?" Deacon asked.

"Ah, yes. Can you drive and she can take the van?"

"Works for me."

I went to tell Penny and she said that would be okay by her. "Just don't get too friendly with the women."

"Me? Get friendly? Not I."

"Yeah, you. If you're not home by six, I'm hunting for you," she said with a smile. "And with my gun," she added.

I waved to Lynn and went to find Deacon in the motor pool. He pulled the Dodge Charger Interceptor again, he really liked that car. Macho car, macho man. Damn, now I had the song Macho Man, by the Village People in my head. I found him as I hummed the song and did a few disco moves in the parking lot, he gave me a stare.

"Don't ask," I said as I got in the car.

We drove out to the strip and in to the parking lot of the Fashion Show Mall on Las Vegas Boulevard. Deacon managed to find a row of trailers behind one of the buildings, serving as dressing rooms for the big televised Fashion show. One trailer had a sign in big letters, Make-up, on its side.

Deacon parked and we went down the row of StarWagons, as the name stated on the end of each trailer. We came to the make-up trailer and Deacon went up the stairs. Suddenly a big man appeared at the door growling at Deacon, it was Angelo.

"Oh, Mr. Deacon, sorry I didn't recognize you at first. Hey, Mr. R. good to see you, too," the big man said, with a more pleasant smile than the grimace he had moments ago.

"Angelo, good to see you're on the job." I said.

"Yeah, Barry is in getting made up to walk the catwalk as they call it. They run shows here Friday to Sunday and Barry is participating."

Deacon went in past Angelo and stood looking at the row of chairs in front of well-lit mirrors. He turned to Angelo and asked, "Do you know who is in charge of all this?"

"Sure, Mr. David, he's the boss," then he whispered to us, "He's a little gay."

I whispered back, "There's no being a little gay, he is or he isn't."

"Well, then, he is. Not that it bothers me. He's the one in the pink slacks at the end of the trailer."

"Thanks Angelo," Deacon said as we went to the man having a fit about something.

"I don't care if she wants to look pale, it's a bathing suit theme and she should look tan, so spray her!" The young assistant ran off as Deacon moved in front of Mr. David.

"Well, you are a big one," Mr. David said to Deacon.

Deacon showed his badge, and asked, "Can we go somewhere to talk?"

"Is this about Tiffy?" he said with concern in his voice.

"Yes, we're here to ask about the night in question. Now, can we go outside?"

"Of course, follow me." He went out and around to the side of the trailer. "Now, what can I do you for?"

"You can just answer my questions. That's all." Deacon was looking uncomfortable since Mr. David was giving him the eye.

"Very well, ask away," he said with a flourish of his hands.

"For starters, where were you last night between eight and midnight?"

"I was entertaining a friend, in my home. I can get you his name if need be, but we'd like to keep it quiet. He has a partner and he's a jealous type."

I could see Deacon was looking more uncomfortable, "Yes, his name please. We'll try and keep it quiet."

"Thank you so much, he's Perry Frampton. You know, like the singer?"

"Peter Frampton," I said.

"Yes, that one. Now don't go making a big deal out of it. Perry's partner is not a pleasant man."

"Is he dangerous?" Deacon asked.

"Oh God, no, he's just loud and annoying. So bitchy."

"We'll be careful asking Perry if he was with you. Do you have any theories about the murder?"

"Dear, all these bitches would have cause to murder Tiffy. They all want that gold ring on the ride to fame. A million dollars and a TV contract, that's a prize worth taking out the headliner of the show."

"What about the make-up that was applied to her face?" Deacon took out the photo from a folder he was carrying and showed it to the man.

"Oh, good God, this wasn't done by anyone who knows how to apply make-up. The eye liner is smudged and the rouge is too heavy. This was an idiot doing this. I'd fire anyone who'd do this. Poor Tiffy."

"Well, thank you for that. We may need your expertise again."

"Thank you, I'll be glad to help. Now I have to get back or all the bitches will take over."

He skittered off as Deacon looked to me, "That man makes me uneasy."

*

Chapter 4 *

"Why? Because he's gay?" I asked.

"No, because he's weird. I know gay people, they don't send me vibes like he does."

"Because he was showing an interest in you? I saw him flirting with you."

"Still has nothing to do with him being gay."

"Maybe he wants to spend some time with you, alone," I said with a smile.

"Knock it off, I'm not that way."

"Gay? You're the last person I would take for gay, or wanting to be with a man."

"My wife thanks you for that. Now can we get back on track here. We have a killer on the loose and we need to find him, or her."

"Good with me. Did you give him your number?" I grinned.

"You're really asking for it," Deacon said with a growl.

"No, I think he was asking for it," I said and walked away quickly, leaving Deacon standing behind the trailer. He followed, as I went up the stairs into the make-up trailer. I looked back to him and said, "Shall we go ogle some sexy women to prove our manhood?"

"Sounds good, I need to get my head back into sex with women."

"Don't let Lynn hear that," I said and went to a blond sitting in a chair getting made up. "Hi, what's your name?"

"Who's asking, creep?" she sneered.

I looked to Deacon, "Well, she's rude wouldn't you say, Watson?"

"Elementary, my dear Holmes. She is rather rude." Deacon held his badge up to her face, real close so she could see. "Now you want to answer Sherlock's question?"

"Sherlock? What kind of name is that?" she said, not fazed by the badge.

Deacon was getting a bit miffed, "How would you like to go with us handcuffed, in a patrol car to police headquarters to answer Sherlock's questions?"

She looked to her reflection in the mirror and said, "Okay, what do you want to know?"

"Name?" I said.

"Brandy Baker," she finally answered reluctantly.

"Well, Brandy, did you know Tiffy, the girl who was murdered?" Deacon asked.

"We all knew Tiffy. She was such a princess, always strutting her stuff, and acting like she was the Queen Shit around here," she said almost spitting.

I looked to Deacon, "Sounds like this girl could have had a problem with Tiffy. Maybe she's a good suspect for murder?"

She about came up out of the chair, "Hey, hell, I didn't kill her! I ignored her bitchiness, she was a whore for the runway."

"Explain?" Deacon asked.

"She thought she was God's gift to fashion. She was good at the job, but she had an ego problem. There were a lot of girls who didn't like her, more than me. A lot more who would have liked to see her dead." She sat back and calmed down.

"Have any idea who may have wanted to kill her, besides everyone?" Deacon asked.

"Good question, Watson," I kidded.

"Thank you, Sherlock," he replied.

Brandy looked up to us and said, "You two are weird."

"Thank you. Just answer the question, ma'am," Deacon replied.

"What was the question?"

Deacon sighed, "Who do you think did it?"

"Easy, Amanda Rule, she's the next princess to take over, now that the bitch is gone. She most likely did her in."

"And where would we find Amanda Rule?"

"Out on the catwalk, and she makes the term fit. Meow."

We thanked her and went out to find Amanda. I figured she'd be in the mall, on the runway. So we went there.

We moved through a long hallway from the back entrance that emptied into the mall. On the way, we passed a number of women and men running back and forth, probably all in the show. We came out by a new looking stage built with an extended runway for the models. On the back of the stage was an elaborate neon and LED lit sign announcing the big "Greatest American Model" competition. Behind the stage was erected a tent that was attached to the back of the stage. Probably where the models changed.

Deacon went to a flap opening of the tent where people were rushing in and out. He walked through the flap and into what was a chaos of movement and rushing people. There were about twenty persons moving about, it was hard to get a number since they moved so quickly.

"This reminds me of the day in the precinct, when we had the terrorist threatening to hit Vegas with the virus," Deacon laughed.

He stopped a frazzled looking woman with a clipboard, and quickly asked, "Where's Amanda Rule?"

The woman gave him a scowl and said, "She's busy."

Deacon held out his badge, "Well, I can make her un-busy real quick. Where is she?"

The woman sighed and pointed to a blonde being dress by two men. "Give her a moment to do the walk and she'll be done."

"Thank you," he said and we went over to the side of the tent where she was screaming about how slow they were getting her ready.

"Move it you morons, I've got to get back out there!" she yelled loudly.

"Well, Watson, I'd say she has a temper."

"Indubitably, my dear Holmes," he came back.

"Indubitably? You've been using that word book Lynn got you."

"Undoubtedly so," he gave me a big smile.

Amanda tore out of the tent towards the stage, as we went to the opening where we could watch her walk the walk. While the music blared, she strutted like some hot shit, stopped and did a turn, then stopped again. She gave a shocked look and then collapsed to the stage in a heap, covered by the gown she was modeling.

There were loud expressions of surprise from the crowd, as people from the show rushed to her. Deacon was out of the tent quickly and up to her, pushing people back. He was on his knees checking her, and saw the rivulet of blood from her side. He pulled his cell phone and made the call to LVMPD.

By now, security for the show had moved in and pushed people back. The leader of the security men knew Deacon and asked what was going on.

"Tom, get everyone in the tent to stay, and watch for a shooter in the crowd. See how many people you can find who may have seen anything," Deacon asked the man to do this for him.

Tom pulled his walkie-talkie and called for the rest of the mall security to get to his location. He called to his men around the stage and gave them orders. I was standing off the side of the platform watching it all go down. Deacon looked to me and shook his head, she had to be dead.

About an hour later, Lynn was standing by the runway watching the Medical Examiner's people, led by county coroner Joe Lang, wrapping the lifeless body of Amanda in a bag. Penny was standing by me, on the sidelines.

"You saw this happen?" she asked Deacon.

"Jim and I were standing over there," he pointed to the opening in the tent, "I heard no shot, the music was too loud, or the killer could have silenced the weapon. CSI is going over the security camera footage, to see if he can see a gun flash. There were lots of people here, they didn't even jump when it happened. I guess they didn't figure there was a gunman in their midst and they didn't hear the shot."

"Who was she?" Lynn asked.

"Amanda Rule. One of the other models told us she was expected to be the front runner for the competition."

"Yeah, well, she's out of the race now. We're getting a pattern here." She looked to me and asked, "Did Amanda have a bodyguard?"

"I don't think I saw her with the women who came in for our services. But even if she was guarded, it would have been impossible to protect her out here."

"True, it took balls to kill her in front of all these people. Have you rounded up the people behind this circus?" she asked Deacon.

"They're all in the tent under guard by Tom Deluca and a few of his security guards."

"Tom Deluca? There's a name I haven't heard in a while. I knew he left LVMPD years ago, but didn't know he ended up here."

"Yep, he's the Captain now. Better than when he was a Sergeant on our team. Probably making more money now, too."

"Okay, let's go talk to these people. We may have to shut this thing down for the sake of everyone else." Lynn turned and went to the tent now being guarded by the security people. They let her and the rest of us pass, we went in.

There were eight people sitting around a table covered with props for the show. They all looked distressed and upset. Lynn went to them and asked for the head of the group. One woman stood and said she was. Lynn went over to her.

"Sit back down, please. I need to know what the hell is going on. Why are these people being murdered, in your opinion?"

The woman looked really upset, almost on the verge of crying. "This shouldn't be happening. This was supposed to be a fun competition and promote our products. Not become a murder fest."

"I understand, but why the murders?"

"They say it's a cut throat business. Now it's a murderous business. It boils down to money and power. Isn't that the main reason for crime?"

"Any thoughts on who may be doing this?" Lynn asked.

She replied simply, "Honey, it could be any one of these murderous bitches."

*


Chapter 5 *

"I don't buy it," I said as we left the tent.

"Why, Sherlock?" Deacon asked.

"Well, this was a very good kill shot, and all the bitches were in the tent or in the trailers. Besides, there was no make-up, so your lipstick killer is just a killer now."

"You really like to mess up my cases, don't you?" Lynn said, as she went to the stage where CSI was trying to get a handle on the shooting. "Anything, Dave?" she asked the supervisor of the team.

"From the security video footage we examined, she was facing the back of the stage, and was hit on her right side. So we deduce the shot came from high up, over there, upper level east, by Macy's." He was pointing up towards an area with potted palms.

"Could someone have brought a high powered rifle in amongst all these customers, and not be seen?" Lynn asked.

"Anything is possible. You need to check the maintenance people, video shows a couple were in that vicinity with cleaning carts, during the time of the shooting. A cart could have been used to easily carry the weapon. We're checking the palm plants for gun shot residue. I'll give you a call if we get anything."

"Thanks, I'll be back at my desk shortly. All this extra weight is slowing me down."

"Tough being pregos," he laughed.

"You bettcha," she replied.

An officer came up to the supervisor and said he was needed up on the level where they believe the shooting originated. Lynn, Deacon, Penny and I followed him up to the scene.

Dave saw his people standing by the huge potted palm plants and asked what they had. One of the CSI techs pointed to one of the huge square posts holding up the building, next to the plants. Everyone looked to the wall of the post, as he moved the palm branches aside and they saw it.

A smiley face made with lipstick.

Lynn looked to me and smiled, "Well, your theory is moot now. We still have a lipstick killer."

She turned to Dave and asked, "If you can get a make on the lipstick, it might help."

"Will do," he replied.

We stood looking down to the stage; it was a straight shot from here to the kill.

"He had to be a really good shooter to hit her with one shot," Deacon said. "Could be former military or cop, someone with the skill."

"Or a very good hunter. He stalked his victim and took the shot, while she moved along the runway,"  I added.

Dave spoke, "As I said before, we have video that there were custodial people in this area. Can't see their faces, so they knew where the cameras were."

"People?" Lynn asked.

"They weren't together, just being on the level at the same time."

"I'll need to know who they were and talk to them," she said to Deacon.

"I'll get on it," he replied, "after you go back to the precinct to rest."

"Isn't that sweet," she mugged, "touching concern for me."

"I know you're able to handle this, but the baby doesn't need to be broken into crime fighting before he's old enough."

"Whatever, just find out who the people were and haul their asses in to be interrogated if need be."

"Now we discussed about language in front of the baby."

Lynn just stared at Deacon, shook her head and said to Penny. "If you want to go with me, we'll leave Sherlock and Watson to fight crime."

"Sounds good to me," Penny said and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "See you later, Sherlock."

I watched Penny going off with Lynn. I had to admit that Penny still had a rear end that turned me on.

Deacon asked Dave where the mall offices were. He called a uniform standing nearby and said to take us to the offices. We followed the fairly young man, who looked like he may be a rookie.

"Are you a new recruit, officer?" I asked.

"Yes, sir. Just out of academy, last month. I'm Frank Melkan," he said, and stuck out his hand to shake, we did. "I know who you both are, pleasure to meet you. I grew up here in Vegas and always loved watching the Metro Police working the streets. I applied and was accepted. I wouldn't mind making Detective someday."

Deacon laughed, "It's not all that glamorous, believe me. Just do your best, stay clean, and kiss a lot of butt. You may make it."

We went across the mall to where the mall offices were and Officer Melkan left us at the door. We entered to a high counter and the girl behind the desk asked if she could help us. Deacon showed his badge. The girl looked to it and said, "We've been busy with police all morning, this is about the dead model, I presume."

"Yes, it is. I need to speak to someone in charge of your maintenance and custodial department."

"That would be Bob Norton, he's in his office. Shall I announce you?"

"That would be nice, thanks," Deacon said with a smile to the young woman.

She called to say there were two police officers to see the man. She listened and hung up. "He'll be right out."

We thanked her and waited. About two minutes later and fairly large man came out of a hallway and motioned to us to follow. We went down the hall to an office that was huge. It had a couple desks and numerous people running around doing their work. Norton motioned to a couple ugly chairs by his desk and asked, "What can I do for you, officers?"

"That's Detectives, well, I am, he's a civilian adviser," Deacon said pointing to me, "We need the names of your people who were in the area at the time of the shooting this morning." Deacon handed the man a piece of paper with the information given to him by CSI regarding the location of the shooter. The man looked at the paper and then turned to a big board on the wall and studied it for a few. It had plenty of names, times and locations for cleaning and other functions.

"I had only one person in that area around that time. Ben Fossily, he was cleaning the trash cans. There were no others assigned there."

"Surveillance videos show at least two persons with carts were up there, around that time."

"Well then, someone else shouldn't have been there. I keep a tight ship and want to know where my people are at all times. There was only one person scheduled to be on that level at that time. If there was someone else, then it wasn't one of my people."

"Where can I find this Ben Fossil?" Deacon asked.

"Fossily, hold on," he turned back to the board and then said, "He's cleaning restrooms on this level, end of the court. Go out the door and all the way straight down. He should be in the men's or the women's right now."

"Thanks," Deacon said and we went out. We walked towards the restrooms, passing through busy tourists milling about, all going around in their own little worlds. They had no concern or idea about the murder that took place earlier. It was fairly crowded, I was sure that made the store owners happy.

We ended up all the way across the mall and found a sign pointing out the restrooms. We followed and found them. There was a cleaning cart in front of the men's room, blocking the entrance.

Deacon moved the cart aside, just as a man was coming out and saw us. "Hey, this room is closed for cleaning, you'll have to wait."

Deacon flashed his badge and said, "You Ben Fossily?"

The man looked a little concerned and said he was.

"You were on the second level around the time the runway model was shot?"

"Yeah, I saw her go down, but I didn't know she was killed until later. I was watching all the babes on the stage, from the balcony."

"Did you hear a gun shot or see any other cleaning person on the same level?"

"I heard nothing, the music was blaring, but I did see one guy pushing a cart, but I figured he was new, I didn't recognize him."

"Could you describe him?"

"Plain, about my height, had a beard, and his cap was pulled low, so I couldn't really see much of his face. He had coveralls on so I figured he was one of us."

"What was he doing?"

"Same as I was, watching the show. But he moved away from where I first saw him, and then I didn't see him again."

"Do you have an extra cleaning cart sitting around now?"

"Yeah, as a matter of fact. It was left on that level by the restrooms. It should still be there, I wasn't going to move it, if the guy was too lazy to do it."

Deacon pulled his cell phone and called Dave to tell him about the cart. "It should be by the restrooms on your level. Check it out." He listened, then hung up.

"Thank you, Mr. Fossily. If you should see the man again, call me." He handed the man his card and we left him at the men's room door.

"I doubt he'll see him again, you do realize the shooter is long gone now?" I asked Deacon as we walked away.

"Sure, and we'll have to wait to see if CSI finds the cart and gets anything off it. Otherwise we don't have much else right now."

"Think we should go talk to the models some more?" I asked.

"Yeah, that's a good idea. Just don't tell Lynn and Penny," he said with a big grin.

*

Chapter 6 *

As we were walking away from Fossily, Deacon stopped and said, "I may still have a couple questions to ask Norton, so let's go back there."

We headed off again towards the custodial offices and entered. The woman at the desk called Norton and he came out. "Did you find Fossily?" he asked.

"We did, and he was right were you said he'd be. I have a couple quick questions; if the second man on that level wasn't one of your people, where would he have gotten the cleaning cart and uniform?"

Norton thought for a moment and then replied, "It wouldn't be easy, but we do have rooms throughout the building where we keep equipment, he could have pulled one of our spare carts out from there. As to the uniform, all our people have their own, we don't stock extras. If this guy did have a uniform, he would have had to have bought it from our supplier."

"Could you ask all your people to watch for a spare uniform that may have been stuffed in a trash can?"

"Sure, if it does belong to one of my crew it would have a name tag on it. That would help clear up the extra uniform." Deacon handed him his card and said to call if they find it.

We thanked him and left, heading back to the stage. We came up finding Dave and he turned to us and said, "We found the cart, they just brought it down." He pointed to the cleaning cart now being examined by his people. One of the techs was rummaging in the trash bag and pulled out parts of a sniper rifle, disassembled.

"Well, this is a break. He must have pulled it apart to take with him, but something stopped him. He just left it," Deacon said. "If you find any prints on it, let me know. Although I believe it probably was wiped clean."

"Or he wore gloves," I offered.

"Yeah, the cleaning people would wear gloves and not attract attention." He looked back to Dave and said, "Keep me informed."

We left the stage and went around to the tent in the back. There were two uniforms watching the opening. Deacon smiled and said, "Tough duty having to guard all these beauties?"

They both grinned and agreed. We went in and found Lynn and Penny talking to one woman standing by a makeshift table for make-up. We came up behind them and waited.

"That was the last you saw of our victim Tiffy?" Lynn was asking the woman. She didn't appear to be a model, she was too plain and was dressed in every day clothing.

"Yes, she left our trailer yesterday after we removed her make-up, she said she was going to her place to rest.

"Was there anyone giving extra attention to her? Some stranger or one of the people who work here?"

"Not that I noticed. Her manager was in talking to her earlier, but he left before she did."

"Manager? These women have managers?" Lynn asked.

"Yes, and some have agents. They all want a piece of the riches these girls make. But I'm sure her manager wouldn't kill her, she was worth more alive than dead."

"Unless she had a big insurance policy," I said to Deacon. Lynn heard me and looked back.

"Ah, the great detectives return. Have you solved the case yet?" Lynn smirked.

"We're hot on the heels of the killer, only time will tell," Deacon mugged back.

Lynn turned back to the woman and said, "Thank you for your time, I may need to talk to you again later." Lynn turned and led us off to the side of the tent.

"We talked to a couple air-headed models and they had nothing ground shaking to tell. The make-up people all agree that Tiffy wasn't made up by a pro. Did you get anything?"

Deacon explained what information we had gotten from the custodial people and that the rifle was found. Lynn felt that was good, and then said, "I'm hungry, anyone else hungry?"

We all looked to each other and agreed. "Let's go get something to eat then." Lynn said and headed out of the tent.

Deacon looked to Penny and me and said, "She's hungry all the time now with our kid on the way. I have to put up with her raiding the fridge at two in the morning."

"Pickles and ice cream?" Penny asked with a big grin.

"Worse, she wants sardines and bagels. I have to stock up on that crap, and I hate the stuff."

We heard Lynn yell loudly from outside, "Are you coming?"

"The hungry beast callith," Deacon grinned and went to the opening.

"I think we need to go back into the office and see if it's still standing," I said to Penny.

"Fine with me, all this beauty is getting me down," she replied.

"Oh, come on, you are as beautiful as any of these women, and could walk the walk with the best of them," I said with a grin.

"That earned you a few points, you can cash them in tonight." She walked to the opening and out. I followed, watching her rear. Still a nice sight.

 I came to Lynn and Deacon both talking about where to eat. Deacon wanted something grilled, Lynn wanted a Gyro at a Greek restaurant.

I interrupted. "Guys, we're going back to the office, you enjoy your meal and we'll see you later."

They both said their good-byes and went back to arguing about where to eat. I smiled and led Penny out. Suddenly I stopped and asked, "Do you have the van?"

"Yes, I do. I wasn't going to let Lynn drive in her condition. We figured she could get a ride back with Deacon."

"Great, lead the way. You do remember where you parked?" I asked.

"Of course I do. I'm not senile yet, like you."

"I love you, too."

We spent about ten minutes trying to find the van, I was trying not to laugh for fear Penny would punch me. After about five more minutes we found it. I opened the door for Penny, she thanked me with a kiss.

I drove back to our office and parked in front. We entered the door to the front lobby and found Tracey smiling. "Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Richards, how are you today?"

"We're good. Don't you get lonely out here, closed off from the rest of the office?" I asked.

"No, actually I enjoy it. There's not much to do so I read books. I've read all of yours."

"Flattery will get you everywhere with him," Penny laughed.

"Shall I announce you or are you going to surprise Lacey?" she asked.

"I like to scare Lacey, when she's not paying attention. Thanks, Tracey."

Lacey and Tracey, it was confusing sometimes, but they both were good workers. Penny and I quietly went through the front doors to the main lobby and found Lacey with her head down in a pile of papers busily working. Penny went to the counter first and yelled. "Hey!"
 
Lacey jumped up and gave a hard look to Penny. "It's bad enough that Jim pulls that crap, now you are doing it?"

"Sorry, I couldn't resist. Where's Willy?" Just as she said that, the tiny dog came running from out of the hallway and up to her. Penny picked him up and nuzzled him.

"It's been quiet in here since the bimbos all left," Lacey said with a smirk.

"Hey, those are clients, treat those bimbos with respect," I kidded.

"Whatever. Earl wants to see you when you come in. Are you in?"

"Do I look like I'm in?" I asked.

"I can never tell. You are here so infrequently."

"Well, I'll start hanging around more, just for you," I looked to Penny, "I'll go see what Earl wants and get back to you." I gave her a kiss and left her and Lacey to plot world domination.

I got to Earl's door, but stopped. I peeked in Trapper's office and it was empty. I turned back to Earl's office and went in. "What up, super spy?" I asked.

"Hey, you do exist. What have you been up to?"

I told him about the models and the killings. He sat listening and nodding like a bobble head. He did that a lot.

"So I missed the bevy of beauties? I need to get to work on time more. Now, I have a case that needs an extra eye. I got a call from an old friend and he is being accused of stealing corporate secrets from the company he worked for. They let him go because of it and may press charges for stealing. Are you busy on the model case?"

"Afraid so, I've already told Lynn and Deacon I'd help. Is Trapper busy?"

"I'll ask him whenever he shows up. You don't get paid for helping LVMPD do you?"

"Nope, but it's a favor that I can call back anytime I need it. Besides, I have enough money in my bank from my book sales to last me for a good number of years without being paid."

"Yeah, I still have a big nest egg from my sordid past with the CIA. We both could retire happily to our own island in the Bahamas. Now, poor Trapper will have to work until he drops," he said with a laugh.

"True, but I'd feel sorry for him and let him live on the island. But he'd have to get his own coconuts."

"Okay, I'll see if he wants to help on my case. Give him something to do."

"Give who something to do?" Trapper asked as he walked into the office.

*

Chapter 7 *

"Ah, the other prodigal son returns. You do know you work here?" Earl asked Trapper.

"I work harder than you. Paula seems to get most of your time." Trapper shot back.

"Oh, I suppose all the little vacations you and Samantha take, don't cut into your job responsibilities," Earl cut back.

"Before you two get to bare-knuckle fighting, why don't you marry your ladies and then you'll be able to get lots of work done?" I said.

They both gave me stares that suggested I might get pounded. "I'll just leave you to talk it out. Later." I left the room quickly, nearly running into Penny in the hallway.

"What did Earl want?" she asked me.

"He needed help with a case. I'm busy, so he's going to ask Trapper. Let's move along." I was turning her and pushed her gently down the hall to my office.

"Hey, slow down. Are you in trouble?" she asked.

"I suggested that Will and Earl get married."

"Why would they want to do that? They have girlfriends who might not like them marrying each other."

"No, babe, I mentioned they should marry their girlfriends, so they would have more time to do some work here."

"Are you saying marriage kills romance and they won't have to spend as much time as they do now giving their girlfriends' attention?"

I knew whatever I said would come out wrong, "No, not what I meant. We have plenty of romance, don't we?" I was ready to duck.

She just stood staring at me. I wasn't sure what she was planning. Then, she smiled, "I have gotten lots of romance from you. I like when you surprise me with flowers and candy."

I realized I hadn't done either of those things, so I had to change the subject quickly. "How would you like to go eat at Wolfgang's and then maybe take a walk around the Boulevard Mall? They have nice jewelry stores."

"Yes, very expensive jewelry stores. Shall we go?" She turned and walked out, still carrying Willy.

"This is going to be an expensive lunch," I mumbled and followed. "I should learn to keep my mouth shut."

As we went through the lobby, I yelled to Lacey that we would be back later.

"So, you're no longer in?" she said sarcastically.

"No, I'm out, and I will be out for the rest of the day, if I'm lucky." I turned away from her and went out the front after Penny.

We drove to Wolfgang Puck's Bar and Grill in the MGM Grand and had a very nice meal. I was relaxing and said, "Remember our first visit to Vegas, we stayed right here in this hotel."

"Yes, and that's the time you took the first bullet that didn't kill you. I was happy for that," She replied.

I relaxed hearing that. "I wasn't very happy about it. That sucker hurt and I didn't like wandering around lost in the desert trying to get back to civilization."

"Well, you did find your way back. Now shall we go explore the Mall?"

It was inevitable, so I paid the bill, left a hefty tip and we went out. As we were getting into the van, my cell phone rang. I had put a ringtone on it that sounded like the old-type phones' ring. That annoying clanging bell sound, but it was so cool to watch people trying to figure out where the sound was coming from.

"Hello?" I asked, answering.

I put it on speaker since it was Lynn, "Jim, what are you doing right now?"

"I'm being punished. What do you need?" Penny smacked my arm and then picked up Willy.

"We got another body and Buck isn't happy," her voice came through.

"Buck? What's Buck got to do with it?"

"He was guarding the woman. He went to get her a cup of coffee, from next door at the coffee shop, and when he came back she was dead. I'm feeling really sorry for him, he's really angry. Could he do something dangerous?"

"Hard to tell with Buck, he may revert back to his biker days, but I hope he will take it well."

"You need to get over here, he's storming around the building. I think he's foaming at the mouth right now."

"Where are you?"

"At the Lansome Modeling Agency, on Charleston, corner of Maryland. Look for all the black and whites,' she laughed and hung up.

I looked to Penny and said, "We'll have to go to the mall another time, Buck needs us."

"You lucked out on that, but I won't forget."

"Yes, Dear, I know you won't." I started the van and drove out.

We arrived at the building and went in the front door. There were uniforms all over the place, probably to ogle all the good looking models. We came in to find Greg Warren standing outside a door looking in.

"Hey Greg, what's up?"

I heard a familiar voice, it was Buck. He came out of the room looking about as mad as I have ever seen him.

"Jimmy, I want blood! You need to help find this fucker."

I took Buck's arm and pulled him aside. "Okay, I understand your pain, but calm down. We'll find the fucker, but you know it takes time."

"Yeah, the killer better enjoy that extra time he'll have before I tear him apart."

"Talk to me, what happened?"

"I got too confident. I didn't figure she couldn't be murdered in the office. I took over for Liston, the guard assigned to watch her. He had to take his kid to something at school. I was relaxing when she wanted a coffee, I went to get it next door at the coffee shop."

"Don't they provide coffee here?"

"Sure, if you like dog piss. She was a whiney bitch, but she was my whiney bitch. So I went to get her a good cup of coffee next door, and when I got back she was dead. She had lipstick smeared all over her face. Damn it!"

Lynn was standing at the door and said, "Don't blame yourself Buck, this guy was a pro. No way he could have slipped in and then out after the kill. He, or she, was here all the time. I got my people questioning everyone as to who was in the building, we'll narrow it down."

I turned to Lynn, Deacon was standing behind her. "This is getting to be too much. Too many quick kills in such a short time. If you pull the plug on the competition, the killer has no reason to murder any more women," I said.

"I said that, but the Mayor and the City Council has already put their two cents in. This show is bringing in mucho bucks to the city and the prestige of our town for the thing is important for the image. The Mayor is sympathetic, but he wants results to end this before the big show."

"Maybe he should investigate, see if he can stop the killer."

"Well, gee, Jim. You want to tell him that. I don't like the man, he puts the buck above lives. I'm not happy, so we need to get on with this and catch the killer."

Penny whispered in my ear, "Am I becoming a widow again?"

I grinned at her and said, "Don't worry, I'll give time to you, too."

Lynn went to the office where coroner Joe Lang was just getting ready to bag the body.

"Anything you can give me now, Joe?"

"Yeah, she was murdered," he smiled, as he zipped up the bag for his people to take out.

"Gee, it's good they keep you around for comic relief. Now what's your professional opinion?"

"Okay, the beauty was garroted with a wire. Thin and short, just enough to reach around her neck, judging by the thumb bruises on her neck by the wire scar. Easy to bring in, hidden in any number of places on a body and disposed of easily. CSI is tearing into the building looking for it. I don't think they will find it, but that's my opinion."

"You're just a fountain of information. Thanks Joe. Let me know if you find out anything else." Lynn turned to Deacon and said, "Shall we see if our people have found anything from their questioning?"

She went out followed by Deacon, Buck, Penny and me. She went down a hall to another office where Greg Warren was standing outside the door. "How's it going Greg?"

"So far no one saw anybody out of the ordinary. Everyone was here who belonged here. Except Buck's body guards."

Lynn looked back to Buck and asked, "Are all you're guards kosher?"

"My people are all good, background checks and criminal records. They have been with me since I started the security business. No one was new recently."

Lynn went into the office where Detective Williams was talking to a woman. We stood outside the door as Lynn introduced herself and asked the woman, "What is your function around here?"

"Function? You mean what do I do here?"

"Yeah, okay, I meant that. What do you do here?"

"I'm a receptionist. I watch the front office and keep things running properly. It's not easy to keep all these women being where they should be."

"So the woman," she looked at the folder she had and continued, "Gerry Jenkins, who was murdered, where was she supposed to be?"

The woman looked a bit shaken and answered, "She was not scheduled to be anywhere else, she was just here in the building for a photo shoot."

"Where's the photographer?"

She paused, "Uh, I don't know. He was here earlier, then the mess with the murder came up and I didn't see him after that."

Lynn looked to Deacon and said, "Find the photographer."

*

Chapter 8 *

Nothing more could be done at the modeling agency, until they tracked down the photographer, so Penny and I left. I figured the photographer would be hard to find and I wasn't going to worry about it. Now Buck was another matter. He left with us in his own car and followed us to the office.

We arrived and parked in back. In the parking lot, Buck stood looking at the building. "What's going on in your head, Buck?" I asked.

"I started this security business, with your help, to make something of myself and my people. Today, I failed one person, who I was supposed to be guarding. I'm not happy about it."

"Buck, they slip through the cracks. We can't be everywhere and prevent everything. We just have to take it one day at a time. I understand your pain, but it's done and we need to find the killer to make it right."

"Thanks Jim, it doesn't change my feelings, but it helps. We need to find this bastard."

"And we will, just go with the program and follow the leads. We can't do much without the LVMPD doing the real leg work, but we can help, as we always have."

Penny was behind me with Willy, "Buck, you do what you can, but it never seems like enough. You'll be vindicated soon, I'm sure you will."

"Thanks Penny. Jim isn't good enough for you; leave him and run off with me. We'll get away from all this insanity and live a happy life."

"Buck, you couldn't afford her," I said with a smile, just before Penny knocked it off my face. "Ouch, that was mean."

"Well, you're an idiot. I'm the best thing you've ever had. Now let's go in and see if Will and Earl have murdered each other."

"Or proposed." I said with a grin. Buck gave me a strange look and I said to not worry about it.

We came in the back door and I waved to the camera so Lacey would know we were in. We went to our respective offices and I sat at my desk. Lacey came to the door and said, "Wow, it's strange to see you sitting there."

"If you don't drop it, I'll put you out in the front lobby and bring Tracey in to do your job."

"Go ahead, I could use the vacation." She stood defiantly, I gave in.

"Okay, what is it you need?"

"You have a person up front who needs your help." She smiled and walked off.

I looked to Penny and said, "I'm not having a good day with women, am I?"

"No Sweetie, you're not," she replied.

I stood and went out to the lobby where I was surprised to see Laynie Keller, the well-known pop singer, sitting in the waiting area. She had a man with her and he didn't look happy.

"Miss Keller, it's a pleasure to meet you, what can I do for you?"

"You can protect me. I'm being threatened by some stalker, and I want it stopped," she said looking concerned.

I looked to the man, still sitting and asked, "And you are?"

"I'm Laynie's manager, Marty Brice. I'm concerned also about her safety. Your name came up in conversation with the police. They can't provide protection unless there's an attempt on Laynie's life. You were recommended."

"Well, I'm flattered that someone thought enough to send you here. Now if you'll follow me, I'll see that we can do to help you."

I knew this is what Buck needed to take his mind off the murdered woman, so I led them to his office. He was sitting at his desk staring at the ceiling when we came in. He sat up straight when he saw Laynie, and then stood.

"Well, Laynie Keller, it's an honor to meet you," he said rushing around his desk to pull a chair over for her. She thanked him and sat. Buck ignored the manager and sat on the edge of his desk by Laynie. "What can I do for you?"

"I have a stalker, and he won't leave me alone. Now he's making threatening statements towards me. I need someone to protect me while I'm here in Vegas."

"Is this stalker from Vegas?" Buck asked.

"Yes, he has admitted he was, I've never been bothered by him until I came here."

"Do you know who he is?"

"No, he has sent anonymous messages to my hotel where I'm performing this next week. I can't work under these conditions, but I have a contract to fulfill. Can you help?"

Buck looked to me, then said he'd be right back. He asked me to follow him and we stopped in the hallway outside his office. "Jim, what should I do? I want to find the killer of the model, but she's Laynie Keller, I really want to guard her."

"Well, you could call Angelo in, I heard he was done with the male model," I said. "He could watch her so you can track down the killer."

Buck paused, looking distressed. "Sure, I want to find the killer, but that's Laynie Keller. I don't often get a chance to be around such a celebrity and a great looking one at that. She needs proper protection." He had a dilemma, I could tell.

"Jim, I need to ask you a big favor, would you find the killer for me?" he asked. I had a feeling he would.

"You got it, I'll take care of it for you. Now go work out the details with Laynie, she needs help and you need to keep a good eye on her."

"I'll even bring my own coffee for her. She won't be out of my sight for a minute." He gave me his trademark walrus smile and went back in his office.

I felt better now and turned, nearly running into Penny again. "Are you going to follow me around all day?" I asked.

"Until you take me to a jewelry store, then you're on your own." She kissed my nose and went towards the lobby again. It was hopeless. I went to Earl's office and it was empty, so went back to the lobby.

I asked Lacey, "Are Earl and Trapper off on a quest?"

"Yep, they're working a case, or so Earl said. Have you figured out who the killer is yet?"

"I'm good, not that good. Where's Angelo?"

"He was here after the hunky model had to go back to New York, but then he went to talk to a man about a empty restaurant on Flamingo. You told him you would front him to open his restaurant so he's working on it."

I almost forgot that I told him I would help. I could afford it and Angelo so wanted to have an Italian restaurant, I wanted to help him. "Have him see me when he gets back." I headed back to my office and felt Penny following me again.

I turned, "Okay, shall we go visit a jewelry store, just so you will stop tailing me?"

"I'm ready to go," she said, hugging Willy who gave a little yip in my direction.

"I'm not buying any jewelry for you, dog. You've got a nice collar now." I went to the intercom on my desk and told Lacey I was taking Penny out to deplete my bank account and then we started to leave the building, when Buck came rushing up.

"Jimmy, I'm taking the bodyguard job for Laynie. Can you warn Mac to watch the men?" he said breathlessly.

"Why don't you tell Lacey, she'll see him when she gets home, or she can call him," I replied.

"Yeah, I forgot they were married. I'll do that." He turned and rushed off.

"I think Buck is losing it. His memory is getting foggy." I said to Penny and then we went to the van.

About an hour and $1,200 later, we arrived back at the office. Penny had to rush up to show Lacey her new necklace and earrings, and Willy's faux ruby dog collar. Now why would a jewelry store carry dog collars? I swear, Vegas is a crazy town.

I looked into Earl's office, still empty, and so was Trapper's. Buck was out with his favorite pop singer so I was the only one left in the office. I went to my desk and sat. I speed dialed Lynn and she came on, "What's up Sherlock?"

"Just calling to see how the case is coming?"

"Haven't found the photographer yet, he doesn't exist. And he left no equipment so we could get prints from them."

"The shooting at the mall was by a man dressed as a custodian, the garroting of the model in the office was by a man masquerading as a photographer. I think we have a frustrated actor hit man. Maybe he was hired by someone to knock off the models?"

"It's a thought, all the kills were professional, especially the shooting at the mall. But I think any good hit man would know how to disguise himself. I haven't found one model who could even identify him. They all saw different things, he was ten different people according to them."

"Yeah, well, if they aren't looking at themselves in a mirror, they don't care how others look."

"How's Buck holding up?"

"I distracted him with a body guard job, Laynie Keller."

"Laynie Keller? How did she find you guys?"

"According to her, the police recommended us. Now wasn't that nice of your people."

"Hell, I would have taken the job, I love the way she sings. I'm sure Buck will be watching her closely."

"I'm sure, he was drooling when he said he'd take the job," I laughed.

*

Chapter 9 *

"So how many models are left to compete?" I asked.

"They tell us twelve women are still in the running. Three dropped out after the model was strangled in the office. They value their lives more than money."

"Or they didn't figure they would win. Either way, we have twelve women to watch. I'll talk to Buck and see what extra protection we can put on them. I'm sure the LVMPD doesn't want to incur the expense of manpower."

"Yep, the Mayor and council are all for making money with this dog and pony show, but God forbid if we have to put out a few bucks to save lives. I'm presume Lansome Modeling is paying you, correct?"
 
"Yes, they are and paying well. I think I've had it for the day, I'm taking my wife home, along with the expensive jewelry I bought her today and getting a good night's rest."

"Jewelry? What did you say wrong that led to that?"

"I'm not even going to repeat it. I need to keep my mouth shut to keep from having to buy presents.  I'll talk to you tomorrow, unless you find the photographer. Call me."

"I will, talk later," Lynn said and hung up.

I sat back in my chair just as Penny came into the room, still holding Willy. "Why are you just sitting there? Isn't there crime to solve somewhere?"

"No, my dear, I'm out for the night. Shall we go home so you can wear your new jewels to bed?"

"It's still early, shall we go eat?"

"All I can afford now is Sonic Burgers. We can't eat the jewelry."

"Sounds good to me. I'll tell Lacey we're leaving." She left my office as I stood, trying to get my body into a straight up position, I hated getting old. My parents always said that the body would break down, I didn't believe them. Now I know better. I was finding new things to ache about weekly.

I went out to the hallway, as Penny was coming back. "All's well up front?" I asked.

"Yep, no beautiful women or hunky men now, just Lacey and Tracey hard at work. Now, the burgers await."

We left and had our meal, then went to our home on the outskirts of Las Vegas, overlooking the valley and the strip. I pulled into the drive and parked the van by the garage. It was too big to put in the garage, besides, my restored 1989 Crown Vic was in there along with Penny's car and the mini-limo. I probably should take the Vic out occasionally and drive it.

We went in and I had to shut off the driveway alarm and reset it. I figured we'd be in the rest of the night, but Penny said she was going to take a swim.

"I hope you're not going to wear your necklace and earrings in the pool."

"Do I look crazy. That's not accepted wear for swimming." She kissed me and went off to get changed. I yelled, "Why don't you go skinny dipping, I'll join you."

I heard her reply from the house, "If that's the only way you'll get you in the pool, while I'm naked. I think not."

I went to the kitchen and put some kibble down for Willy, although he ate most of my burger at Sonic. I took a couple beers from the fridge and put one on the counter for Penny. I couldn't figure how she could drink one-on-one with me and not get a beer gut like I had. I really need to work on my figure, I looked as pregnant as Lynn.

An hour later, Penny was drying off, as I sat in a plastic chair next to the pool. I heard a noise to my left and it was Angelo coming through the gate.

"Hey, old friend, what did you think of the restaurant?"

He came over and sat next to me. "Hey, Mrs. R., looking good."

"That's my wife you're ogling, Angelo," I said with a growl.

"Leave him be. I don't hear many compliments from you about my figure," she snipped.

"I have a dirty mind, so I keep it to myself," I defended.

"So Angelo, did you get the building?" Penny asked, as she sat with us.

"I liked it, but I want Mr. R. to look it over first. He's fronting the money, so he should have an interest in it," he said to Penny.

"Angelo, if you feel it's good, I'm fine with it. I presume the price is right and the building is not going to fall down?"

"Nope, all is good on that respect. Plus all the fixtures and cooking appliances are still there, so it wouldn't take any time at all to get ready to open. Just get a staff and food and I'm ready to go."

"Great, so get the building and start. I'll get you a check as soon as you give me a figure." I said.

"I'll get it to you tomorrow, as soon as I talk to the seller. It's a sweet little place, lots of atmosphere. An Italian treat with all the decorations. Plus the location is great."

"Well, put our reservations in for the first meal. And I expect superior service," Penny said.

"You got it, or I'll break a few legs." He laughed so loud and hard, I thought he would bust a gut.

"Sorry, I thought it was funny." He stood and said, "I'm going to call my Mom and tell her the good news. I may need some of her recipes for the menu." He went back out the gate to our guest house.

"I'm happy for Angelo. He's such a nice leg breaker," Penny joked.

My cell phone buzzed, and by the caller ID, it was Buck.

"How the job doing?" I asked.

"Loving every moment of it. Laynie is a great gal," he replied.

"Don't let Maria hear you say that. I was going to call, we may need to provide more guards for the women, can Mac handle that?"

"Sure, he knows the system by now. Just tell him what you need and he'll handle it."

"Okay, I'll do that. How long are you going to be watching Laynie?"

"She's scheduled here at the Silver Slipper for a week, and then she leaves Vegas."

"Well, don't get in any trouble. The tabloids will have a field day with a scandal between you and her."

"I'm good enough not to get caught," he laughed and hung up.

Penny caught the gist of my conversation and said, "Maybe you should make an anonymous call to the tabloids and leak that Laynie and her bodyguard are having a fling. It may help business."

"Sure, and we'll have all kinds of women calling to get a piece of Buck. I don't think Maria would appreciate that."

"You'd be safe, no one would want to have a fling with you," she said with an evil smile.

I stared for a moment and said, "You know, you are a mean woman. I don't know why I even put up with you."

"You'd be lost without me, and I keep you on your toes."

Now I had the evil smile, "I actually keep you around because you are great in bed."

She stood and pulled her bikini top up and off. "Put your money where your mouth is, Slick," she said breathlessly, gave me a wide smile and headed in the house.

I looked to Willy sitting on the ground. "Sorry puppy, you're not sleeping with us tonight."

I followed my sexy wife in and to the bedroom.

Thankfully, there were no calls in the night about killers or stalkers. I guess crime happens everywhere you go, but my curse of murder following me was still holding up. Three murders in less than two days, and a celebrity being threatened with death, my life was busy. Although I just usually stood around, giving my pearls of wisdom while LVMPD did most of the work. I was slowing down now, letting other younger people do the work, while I provided a little bit of brains. Not that I had many brain cells left.

I slept well, Penny had to get up early to go play TV host on her talk show. Willy was on the end of the bed watching me lay there. "What's on your mind this morning?" I asked him. He came running forward and started to lick my face. I didn't like being licked by a dog, any dog, so held him back. Now Penny could lick my face anytime and I'd let her.

She came out of her personal bathroom and was dressed to go face the viewing public. "Who's on your show today?" I asked.

"I think some strip hypnotist; he's been performing at the Planet Hollywood for a while. Do you want me to bring him home and hypnotize you into acting more like George Clooney?"

"Thank you, I thought you were going to say Brad Pitt. No I don't need to be hypnotized, especially after that case we had with the murderous hypnotist. Just leave him at the studio." I sat up on the edge of the bed and looked to her, "You know, I used to be terrified to come home, back when we lived in Michigan. I never knew what you were going to bring home from the studio to bug me."

"Yeah, I had fun in those days. Now it's all Vegas stuff, no silly things, like yoga or baking. I don't have anything unique to bug you with now." She stood looking at me, then said, "Give me a day or two and I'll find something to bring home." She kissed me and went out of the room.

I looked to Willy and said, "Now I'm in terror."

*

Continued in the book

*