A young woman in a conservative black suit and white blouse was with him, along with a camera crew. June was behind them. I could hear her saying firmly, “You are not allowed back here, especially with those cameras.”
Lester Fine turned his head and said something to her, flashing his trademark smile, but June was not daunted.
“You have to leave now or I’ll call the police.”
I didn’t think it would be prudent to mention that besides Tim, there were four other officers in here being monitored as well as that condo security guard. And Frank DeBurra was probably not the only one with Metro Homeland Security who was trying to have words with all of us.
Dr. Bixby appeared from the other side of the center station, where the nurses were whispering among themselves as they stared at Lester Fine. Granted, celebrities are a dime a dozen in Vegas. But we usually don’t see them defy all rules and bring a camera crew into an emergency room.
Bixby was pointing to the cameras, indicating that they needed to leave. Two big, burly security guards flanked the doctor and stepped forward to show that they meant business.
The cameramen shrugged at each other, admitting defeat, and seemed to apologize to Lester Fine just before disappearing back to the other side of those frosted sliders.
I was still peering around my curtain when Lester Fine looked over and straight at me. His eyes settled on my face, and I felt a shiver shimmy up my spine. And not in a good way.
I took a step back behind the curtain, out of sight, but peeked through the space between my curtain and the one next door. Bixby shook Fine’s hand and smiled and nodded. That sort of smile and nod you give people when they’ve told you something and you’re not really listening. I could see Lester Fine’s lips moving, but since I can’t read lips, I had no idea what he was saying. Bixby continued to smile and nod as he jotted something down on the papers on his metal clipboard.
Bixby indicated that Fine should follow him, and uh-oh, they were heading this way, tailed by that young woman, who was obviously some sort of flack of Fine’s. I ducked back behind the curtain and hopped up onto the bed.
They passed me, Bixby glancing briefly toward me and smiling; Lester Fine didn’t look anywhere but straight ahead.
I got back down off the bed, keenly aware that there was nothing underneath this johnny coat as a slight breeze from the air-conditioning shimmied up my bare legs and over my torso. Hugging the cotton jacket closer and hoping those snaps stayed put, I looked out at the bustling nurses and doctors at the center station. There was no sign of Bixby and Fine.
A face appeared next to mine, and I jumped. Tim laughed.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Just checking things out,” I said.
“You’re spying on Dr. Handsome and Lester Fine, aren’t you?”
“Who?” I tried to act all innocent, but he didn’t buy it. He knew me too well.
“They went out a door over on the other side of my curtain. Frank DeBurra went with them.”
“Really? Why do you think Lester Fine is here?”
“He’s running for office.”
“No kidding. But what does that have to do with-”
“He heard about what happened over at the Windsor Palms. He wants to try to make some sort of statement, get on TV, the sort of crap all those politicians do.” Tim hesitated a second, then said, “But I think there might be something else. I did a little poking around into Wesley Lambert after you showed me that sketch.”
“He and Lester Fine knew each other,” I interrupted.
Tim looked surprised. “How did you know that?”
“I Googled that Queen of Hearts Ball-you know, the AIDS fund-raiser about a year ago? Well, there were drag queens there, and Wesley Lambert was Shanda Leer. There were pictures of him and Lester Fine.”
“Were there pictures of them together?”
I thought a second. “No, but there was a picture of Wesley Lambert with Charlotte.”
The instant I said it, I wanted to take it back. Tim got that cop look about him, the one that was all excited because there might be a break in the case. Although what that break could be, I wasn’t exactly sure.
“Do you think Charlotte was part of the ricin plot?” Tim asked.
“What ricin plot? Was there a plot?”
“Brett,” Tim said, his tone condescending, “ricin is a poison used by terrorists. And you don’t whip up a batch in your bedroom just for giggles. Wesley Lambert was going to use that for something. We should just be happy that he wasn’t Mr. Wizard, and it took him down first.”
My instincts were screaming that Lambert wasn’t the only victim.
“Tim, Lambert was poking around Chez Tango the other night; then Trevor gets really sick and dies. He gets stomach sick. You know, it seems really similar to the symptoms Dr. Bixby mentioned.” I paused a second. “DeBurra thinks so, too. Remember how he said this puts ‘that queen’s’ death into question? He must have come to the same conclusion.”
“You think somehow Lambert poisoned Trevor McKay at that club.”
“Yeah, I think so. He was looking for Trevor backstage. Eduardo saw him, but I don’t know how long he was there. Maybe he got into Trevor’s things-his makeup case, maybe-before Eduardo showed up.”
“You think he poisoned the makeup?”
I thought a second. “Trevor had his makeup on already when Lambert was backstage. So I don’t know.”
“Don’t those guys refresh their lipstick or something?” Tim wasn’t making a joke; he was totally on the same page with me on this.
“He might have.”
“Where’s that makeup case now?”
“Charlotte brought it to Trevor’s house.” As the words came out, again I regretted them. But Charlotte was becoming the most common denominator in this whole mess.
“And she had access to that condo where Wesley Lambert had his little science experiment going on,” Tim said, running his hand through his hair and nodding. “You really don’t know where she is?”
“No one does. Not even Ace, and she was with him yesterday.” I didn’t tell him that Charlotte had spent a lot of time with Trevor before the show. But I did think of something else. “You know, if Charlotte wanted to do Trevor some harm, why not when he got his tattoo at our shop?”
“Who did the ink?”
“Ace.” I could see what he was thinking: Ace and Charlotte were close enough so she ran to him when she was in trouble. I quickly said, “But that’s not what happened, because we gave those guys their tattoos four weeks ago. Trevor would’ve been dead long before now.”
It was a strange sort of logic. No, Trevor’s demise was precipitated the other night at Chez Tango. It made more sense.
Tim was staring at me.
“What?” I asked curtly.
“What’s going on with you? What are you thinking?”
I told him about Rusty Abbott, Lester Fine’s assistant. How he had that queen-of-hearts playing-card ink like the guy who shot the cork at Trevor. “I have no idea how all these people are linked, except that they all were at that ball together.” I had another thought. “And then there’s Trevor’s pin. A jeweled one with the queen of hearts on it. He said he got it from Lester Fine. And he pawns it occasionally for cash, then buys it back, which is what happened just before Wesley Lambert came around looking for Trevor, saying there was a mistake or something with buying the brooch back. Then the pawnshop guy says the brooch is stolen. Maybe that was the mistake. But now Lambert and Trevor are both dead, so we might never know.” I paused for a second, another thought crashing into all the others.
“Do you think Lester Fine had something to do with all this?” I asked Tim. “I mean, he gave Trevor the pin, he knew Wesley Lambert, he’s Rusty Abbott’s boss, and now he shows up here for ‘publicity’ reasons.” I made little quotation marks with my fingers. “Maybe he’s here to find out what we know, find out whether anyone’s on to him.”
Tim chuckled. “On to him? You think he’s the master-mind of whatever’s going on, Brett?” But then his smile disappeared and he shrugged. “Then again, if all fingers point in one direction…” His voice trailed off.
This was becoming like that magic trick where you hide a ball under one of three cups. Mix them up and see if you can find the ball. But what it was we were supposed to find was eluding me.
My eye was way off the ball now, since Bixby was coming back toward us with Lester Fine and his flack in tow.