Drawing ligaz11 Dead: A Poker Cop Mystery
Red Penny, Penelope Fallon, Chief of Casino Security, and I go over the facts: “The late Scott Hadley buys into the Midnight Game, a $500-$1,000 limit hold’em table, and bets a quarter of a million dollars on a poker hand he never looked at until…”
“Someone else was declared the winner.”
“And when he did finally look at his cards…”
“He knew he had won.”
“But instead of turning over his winning hand…”
“He started a fatal shootout.”
“Which means that we have just re-opened Detective Rook’s ‘open and shut’ murder case.
“Penelope, I want you to use your MasterKeyCard so we can search the Hadleys’ room.”
“The Strippers have already searched 13-125.”
“No. They went to the room to find Mrs. Hadley. Not finding her there, they left.”
“What is it that you think they missed?”
“Nothing? Everything? I don’t know. That’s why I want to search.”
“It’s against the rules of the Majestic to enter a guest room.”
“Penelope, I broke the “Thou Shall Not Kill” Commandment three hours ago. If you won’t report me to God, I won’t report you to Management.
“I…” Red Penny hesitates. I wait. Good cops play by the rules. Smart cops play around them. This is her call. For the first time tonight Red Penny smiles, “Let’s go.”
Red Penny knocks on 13-125’s door. “Mrs. Hadley? Majestic Security. Mrs. Hadley?” No answer. Red Penny takes out her MasterKeyCard. We enter the Hadleys’ suite. I take the living room, the desk is piled with paperwork. Red Penny searches the bed and bathrooms.
At the end Red Penny and I compare notes. “On the desk,” I tell Red Penny, “Mr. Hadley’s left us a paperwork trail. It took him three days, Wednesday through Friday, to raise the $250,000 he put into the Midnight Game. He maxed out his MasterCard and Visa, and drained his checking, savings, brokerage, and retirement accounts. All wired,” I hold up a Majestic ligaz11 Casino Statement, “to the Casino Cage.” I continue, “For an unknown reason Scott raised an awful lot of money on very short notice.”
Red Penny says, “I found Audrey’s birth control pills.” Red Penny opens the pink package: “This hold twenty-eight pills, four rows, labeled Monday through Sunday. Today is the third Saturday of the month. There should be twenty pills missing. There are only fifteen. Tuesday’s through Saturday’s are still there. Mrs. Hadley isn’t coming back to this room tonight. I think she’s been missing since at least Tuesday.”
I ask, “Are you sure that missing birth control pills mean a missing woman?”
“They’re birth control pills, Talbot, we don’t leave home without them.”
“OK,” I say to Red Penny, “if you’re right that Audrey has been missing since Tuesday.”
“And,” says Red Penny in reply, “if you’re right that Scott began raising money on Wednesday.”
“Then Audrey Hadley has been kidnapped. And we need to find her.”
Red Penny smiles, pulls out her PDA. I look puzzled. “On the left-side night stand I found a Majestic Slot Club card, which I can run through my PDA.” She holds it up for me to watch. Red Penny selects Slot Club and runs the Card through the attached reader. The thing goes wizz-whirr. When this stops, Penny shows me the read-out. MSC# 26365, Player. Audrey Hadley. Penny selects Action.
“Audrey Hadley played once on Monday and twice on Tuesday. $347 total action.” Penny selects Tuesday , Session 2. Wizz-whirr. “She played machine #1026, a dollar slot.” Penny selects Time. “She played for about forty-five minutes, 4:33 p.m. through 5:12 p.m.” Penny selects Location. Casino Area: Grid S-23. Penny presses VSG. Video Surveillance Grid S-23 appears. “Got-ya,” says Penny. More wizz-whirrs. “I’ve IM’d the CSO.” I nod knowingly. I have no idea what IM is or who the CSO is.
I follow Red Penny. On our way down to the Surveillance Room I learn that an IM is an Instant Message and the CSO, the Chief Surveillance Officer is, in fact, my friend “Captain Video.” The Majestic’s Surveillance Room, “The Eye In The Sky,” looks like NASA’s Mission Control. “Watchers,” surveillance officers, sit quietly in front of multi-video displays scanning the tables, with their very practiced eyes, for casino cheats 24/7.
Captain Video, having received Red Penny’s IM, is waiting for us in her office. She has spliced-together casino surveillance tapes which can then be run either forwards or backwards in time, following a subject camera by camera through the casino.
On Captain Video’s monitor, Audrey Hadley, young and blond, is sitting, very much alive, at Majestic Money Machine #1026, at 4:33 p.m. Monday. Camera 914, Casino Grid S-23, shows Audrey Hadley, dressed in jeans and an oversize “Columbia University” T-shirt. Red Penny says, “Stop,” the tape freezes, she turns to me, “I went through every piece of clothing in 13-125, in the dresser, in the closet, and in their suitcases. That T-shirt is missing.” I nod and we turn back to the monitor.
Mrs. Hadley is cashing out at machine #1026 time index 5:12 p.m. She turns to her left and disappears. The picture changes. She re-appears on Camera 703, Grid S-26 and we follow her through the casino, camera-grid to camera-grid, out of Slots, passing by Blackjack and Craps, through the Sports Book, into the Poker Room at 5:19 p.m.
I am standing at the entrance. Audrey Hadley walks right by me. She pauses, looks around and proceeds to Table 6, a $3-$6 Hold ’em Table, where Scott Hadley sits behind stacks of blue and red checks. Audrey hugs and kisses Scott. He returns her kiss. They talk. They part. Surveillance follows Audrey to the central elevators. She enters an empty car. The door closes. It is Tuesday, 5:25 p.m.
Red Penny checks her PDA. “They had dinner reservations, which were unkept, at the Grand Majestic at 6:30 p.m., one hour and five minutes. It would take her that long to get ready.” I ask Captain Video to return to the point in the tape where Scott and Audrey part. We then watch, in fast forward, as Scott plays $3-$6 until he cashes out at 6:03 p.m. The elevator doors close on him at 6:10 p.m.
I ask the Captain to make me two tapes. Scott’s play at the $3-$6 Table. Scott’s play at the $500-$1000 Table. Red Penny has been thinking it over, “I think Audrey was kidnapped between 5:25, the last time we saw her, and 6:10, when Scott went up to join her.”
“This is based on?”
“In Scott’s closet there is a Brooks Brothers suit. In Audrey’s closet there’s a Chanel suit. One formal outfit for him. One formal outfit for her.” I give her my blankest blank look.
“Audrey was last seen wearing cut-off jeans and a T-shirt. They frown on that at the Grand Majestic.”
I nod my understanding. “She never made it back to the room.”
“So Scott walks into an empty room. Ring. Scott is told she’s been kidnapped. They put Audrey on the phone to prove it. They give him their ransom demand. Tell him not to call the police. Click.” Red Penny checks her PDA. “Scott orders room service for one, including a bottle of Johnny Walker Red, at 7:30 p.m. Calls them again for one breakfast at 5:30 a.m. He makes his first long-distance call to 212 – that’s New York City,” at 9:03 a.m. More long distance calls, mostly 800 numbers, all day.”
I dial the numbers: Credit Card Companies, Banks, Pension Funds, and Brokerages. “He’s collecting the ransom,” I tell her. She nods in agreement and adds, “They have to give him three full days. The ransom can’t be paid until Saturday.”
Not having any money of my own to speak of, I confess ignorance, “Three days?”
“The SEC’s Three Day Rule. Proceeds from stocks sold on Wednesday aren’t available until Friday. She checks her PDA. “On Friday, when they became available $250,000 was wired here to the Casino Cage.”
“So,” Red Penny concludes, “Scott collects the ransom, not leaving the room because he’s afraid he’ll miss the kidnapper’s next call. He doesn’t come out again until Saturday night, to deliver the ransom.”
“No,” I tell her. “He does come out. Think about it.”
She thinks about it. “The gun.”
“Right. And where does a guest of the Majestic Hotel get a gun?” She doesn’t have to think about it at all.
“Sonny. Sonny the Pimp.”
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