I headed back to the Venetian, my thoughts all mixed up like scrambled eggs. Now that I knew his name and whom he worked for, I could track Rusty Abbott down. I could ask him why he ran at the casino this morning, and why he took off on me this afternoon in that truck. But I had an uneasy feeling that he wouldn’t want to talk to me and might keep ducking me. He did run away from me. Twice.
What if he was the guy with the champagne last night? Jeff said he inked two other guys at the same time. Why didn’t I push for their names, too, while I was at it? That was stupid of me. Jeff had caved more easily than I thought he would when I asked about Rusty, surprising me into forgetting about the other two guys. Now he might just give me those names, although I was sure he’d try to make me beg. It would be out of character if he didn’t. I’d just have to suck it up and call him later about it. Granted, playing-card tattoos weren’t exactly a rarity, especially in Vegas. I had no reason to think Rusty Abbott or the other two he was with that night had anything to do with what happened at Chez Tango.
Except a nagging feeling.
Why had he run?
I kept coming back to that.
I was stopped at a light when I looked over at a strip mall and saw another pawnshop. It was a block up from Cash & Carry, just past the Sahara, like Trevor had said. Why not check this place out, too? I was here.
I inched over into the left-hand-turn lane, hearing the horns behind me. Too bad. The light turned green, and I pulled into the parking lot. The name of the shop was Pawned-clever. There were some wordsmiths at work here. It wore the same ubiquitous bars over its windows as Cash & Carry, and again neon signs advertised I’d get a good price for my gold jewelry.
Maybe if nothing else, this was a sign that I should get rid of that engagement ring. I really had no idea why I was holding on to it. It wasn’t as if I was waiting for Paul to come find me. It had been two years. I’d moved on; he’d moved on.
Pawned was not as tidy as Cash & Carry. It looked like the local landfill. Piles of discarded bicycles, kids’ toys, skateboards, Rollerblades, televisions, computers, and various sporting equipment were scattered throughout the small space. It, too, had a long glass case, but instead of the neat displays, jewelry and watches were clumped together in spots, with large empty spaces between them.
A short, emaciated guy with a couple of teeth missing and tattoos crawling up his arms and across his neck leered at me.
“Can I help you?” he asked, his voice unnaturally high.
“Was there some sort of incident here this morning?” I asked, noting now the cameras in the corners of the room.
“Were the police here for any reason?” I wished that Joel were with me. Guys tended to talk to other guys in a way they’d never talk to me.
“Where’d you get your ink?” he asked, ignoring my question.
“Most of it in Jersey,” I said. “You?” I added, to be polite.
I nodded. “I know Jeff Coleman.” Maybe that would give me an in with this guy.
Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but I nodded again.
“You a cop?” he asked.
Same question as in Cash & Carry. I didn’t think I looked like a cop, but maybe some of Tim and my dad had rubbed off on me.
I shook my head.
Now, that would be an interesting career choice. But I shook my head again.
He was looking suspicious. I had to give him something.
“A cop came to my shop looking for one of my workers. He said she was involved in an incident at a pawnshop; he wanted to talk to her.” I paused, then added, “She’s got derringer tattoos.” I pointed to my inner upper arms. “Here.”
He licked his lips. “Hot chick. Came in here this morning.”
“Cop didn’t tell you?”
I shook my head.
“She came in asking about a pin I had. Fancy thing, rubies and diamonds. Like a queen-of-hearts card. I told her I didn’t have it anymore. Guy who pawned it bought it back.”
Charlotte already knew that. What was going on?
The guy wasn’t done yet, though.
“Funny about that pin.”
I frowned. “What?”
“Every week I get a list from the cops of things that are stolen. You know, like in robberies or stuff like that.” He paused. “Two days ago, I got the list. That pin was on it.”
I frowned. “Stolen?”
He nodded. “Guy who owns it comes in regular. But he hadn’t been in in a long time.”
“When did he buy the pin back?”
He grinned. “Great minds think alike.” He tapped the side of his head. I don’t think so. “It was reported stolen after he bought it back. Someone must have stolen it from him. I haven’t seen it since.”
But I had seen it. In Trevor’s makeup case last night. It certainly hadn’t been stolen. What was up with this?
“Did you tell the girl it was on your list?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Said if she saw it somewhere else she should call the cops. And then that guy came in.”
He shrugged. “Some guy. Pushed her around a little, said he knew what she was up to. I told the guy to lay off her. Got the impression it was domestic.”
Charlotte wasn’t married. I didn’t even know whether she was dating anyone. “Did you call the cops?”
“I pushed the alarm button, but she ran out, and then he went after her. By the time the cops showed up, they were long gone.”
“What did he look like?”
He shook his head. “He kept his back to me, wore a big gray sweatshirt with a hood.”
Sounded like the guy who shot the cork at Trevor. But the sweatshirt had been found in the dressing room after the incident. So it couldn’t be the same one. I was making connections that couldn’t possibly be there.
I pulled the drawing of Rusty Abbott out of my bag and put it on the counter. “Was it him?”
He pushed the picture of Abbott right back at me and gave me a squirrelly look.
“I don’t know,” he said, looking away.
Now I knew how Tim probably felt when he was questioning reluctant witnesses. I decided not to push it.
“Do you know Wesley Lambert?” I asked.
He frowned and shook his head. “Should I?”
His reaction seemed genuine.
I’d been wondering how Frank DeBurra knew the woman who was in here was Charlotte, so I asked, “The girl who was in here this morning. Did you tell the police about her derringer tattoos?”
He nodded. “And the cool ivy and flower chain ink around her neck.”
The description fit. But still, how did DeBurra get her name?
“She never told you her name?” I asked.
“I asked her about the tats. Asked where she got them. Told me she worked at The Painted Lady.” He paused a second; then a wide grin spread across his face. “I know who you are now. I recognize you. Jeff told me about you.”
Of course he did.
“He said I should try your shop next time I want a tat,” he continued.
I was going to have to tell Jeff to stop talking up my shop. I didn’t need his help. I tried to smile as graciously as I could, considering I never wanted to see this guy in my shop. Ever. I gathered up my sketch and stuffed it back in my bag. I had to get out of here. “My rates start at five hundred,” I said.
I think the rest of his teeth almost fell out as I gave him a little wave and left the store.
My phone warbled “Born to Run” when I got back into the car. I flipped it open after seeing Ace’s number on the screen.
“Tell me you’re still with Charlotte,” I said without saying hello.
“This idiot detective is looking for her. I need to talk to her.”
I heard muffled talking, then, “Hello? Brett?”
“A cop came to the shop looking for you, something about an incident at this pawnshop.”
A long silence, then, “What of it?”
“I was just in the pawnshop. I talked to that creepy guy with no teeth. He said some guy came in and harassed you. He thought it was a domestic. What’s going on?”
“It’s nothing, really.”
“Then why are you hiding?”
“It’s not like you did anything wrong,” I said after a few seconds. Although I was starting to think that there might be a bit more to this than what Mr. Pawned had described. “Why did you go there asking about Trevor’s pin? Did you know it had been reported stolen?”
“Trevor can explain.”
Trevor? “I talked to Trevor. He came by the shop looking for you. He didn’t know anything about you going to a pawnshop or that the cops want to question you. At least that’s what he said.” I paused. “Anyway, Trevor’s back in the hospital. He got really sick at the shop. We had to call the paramedics.”
“Yeah, he was looking for you.”
“Is he going to be okay?”
“I don’t really know.”
“You have to go see him, find out. Tell him I’m okay. He can tell you about the pin, why I went there.”
And then the phone went dead.
I didn’t like visiting hospitals, but it didn’t seem like I had much of a choice. I had no idea where Charlotte was, so I decided to take her up on her advice and try to get some answers out of Trevor. Problem was, I didn’t know where they’d taken him. We’d just let the paramedics leave the shop with him and not asked. I called Bitsy and asked her whether she could call around, see if he had been admitted anywhere.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“Charlotte tells me Trevor can explain what went down this morning at that pawnshop.”
“But he says he wasn’t with Charlotte. And why can’t she tell you?”
“She just won’t. I don’t know why. So I figure I’ll see if Trevor will be a little more forthcoming. Can you make some calls?”
Bitsy knew Las Vegas a lot better than I did. She’d lived here for most of her life, could remember when the Strip was just a shadow of what it was today.
I waited only about five minutes before my phone rang. I looked at the caller ID. Bitsy.
“That was fast.”
“UMC on West Charleston. University Medical Center.”
She told me how to get there from where I was, and I headed north.
“They said he’s still in emergency, so go there.”
I felt like I’d been running all over the planet today. Back and forth like a yo-yo. I found the medical center and the parking garage, going around and around until I was on the roof. Must be a busy day. I didn’t want to know how much they were going to charge me for parking.
The emergency room was packed. All sorts of people, some moaning, some wailing, some bloody. I went over to the information desk.
“Yes?” The woman’s voice was sharp, as if she’d spent the whole day shouting at a bunch of preschoolers who’d gotten out of hand.
“I’m looking for Trevor McKay. The paramedics brought him over here from the Venetian earlier. I understood he was still in emergency.”
She was one step ahead of me, her long nails clicking against her keyboard. She stared at the screen, pursed her lips, and looked up at me. “Just a second, please, miss. Are you family?”
I decided to lie. A little white lie.
The woman picked up the phone and indicated I was to go sit and wait.
There were no seats. Not that I’d want to sit anywhere. Not that I wanted to even have my feet on the floor in this room. There were smells in here, booze and vomit and body odor mixed together. Some blood splattered the floor near a young man holding a dark cloth over his arm. A closer look showed that the cloth had blood on it.
No, thank you. I think I’ll stand.
About five minutes passed, and I heard the woman saying, “Miss? Miss?”
I turned to see a man in a white lab coat standing next to her, a smile on his face. Sister Mary Eucharista would say that a smile in this place was nothing short of a miracle.
A second look at him told me he was good-looking, very good-looking, in that George-Clooney-in-ER kind of way. He was taller than me, thin, with spiky dark hair, green eyes, a long nose, and a nice jawline. My heart did a little jump, as did other parts of me.
“Miss McKay?” he asked.
I shook myself out of my reverie and shook my head. “Kavanaugh. Brett Kavanaugh.”
Confusion clouded his eyes. “I was told you were Mr. McKay’s family.”
I couldn’t lie to this guy. “I’m a friend. He became ill in my shop.”
He frowned, obviously uncertain whether he should continue talking to me, but then made a decision.
“Please follow me.”
We walked through sliding frosted doors into the actual emergency room. Beds were lined up in a semicircle around a big nurses’ station. We didn’t stop, just kept walking until we reached a door to a small office. He indicated I was to go in, and he came in behind me, shutting the door.
“I’m Dr. Bixby.”
He held out his hand, and I took it, a shock running through my arm. I let out a nervous giggle, pulling my hand away too quickly. A glance at his face told me he felt it, too. He was blushing. Really blushing.
I saw now that his name tag read, DR. C. BIXBY.
“What’s the ‘C’ for?” I asked, indicating his tag.
He put his hand up and fingered it. “Colin.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said.
He pointed to a chair. “Have a seat, please, Miss Kavanaugh.”
I did as he asked. I might have done mostly anything he asked.
I’d dated a guy a few months back who was rich, good-looking, and a playboy. We’d had some laughs, but I knew I had to pull out of it before I got sucked in even further. He was the kind of guy who’d break my heart if I let him.
Since Simon, things had been a little slow on the dating front.
Maybe that’s why I found myself admiring Dr. Colin Bixby’s obvious attractive physical attributes.
Not to mention his nice smile.
Which had disappeared. His eyebrows were furrowed slightly, his lips pursed in a grim line.
“I’m deeply sorry to have to tell you that Trevor McKay passed away about half an hour ago.”