“This is the guy who was in drag?” I asked.
“One of two,” Jeff said. “That guy Wesley Lambert, the one with the ricin in the condo? He was the second one. I checked that out this morning. And Rusty Abbott was the third guy, but he wasn’t in drag.” He paused. “Who is this Bixby guy?”
“He’s a doctor,” I said softly. “At the emergency room. I met him.”
“Yesterday when you were there?”
“And the day before, when I went to see Trevor. He’s the one who told me Trevor was dead. He knows Kyle. Kyle Albrecht. He’s MissTique. At Chez Tango.” I thought about how I’d suspected Bixby of being gay. So maybe I wasn’t so wrong about that.
“Those guys really look like women,” Jeff mused.
“It’s weird to see them taking off their girl faces and becoming boys again,” I said.
“Huh? You’ve seen that?”
“They’re so not shy,” I said, but I was still distracted by how I’d misread Bixby. Sort of.
I handed the folder back to Jeff. “I’ve got to get to the shop,” I said.
“Sure you don’t want to hang around here and learn how it’s really done, Kavanaugh?”
“Doesn’t take much to do flash,” I tossed back at him, picking up my bag and slinging it over my shoulder. “Just take me to my car, okay?”
“Say please.” He’d put the folder back, shut the drawer, and was standing too close to me, his eyes searching my face.
I stepped back. “Give me a break.” I rolled my eyes at him. “Should I just call a cab?”
He dug keys out of his pocket and motioned that I was to follow him back out into the alley, where the gold Pontiac sat. We settled in after he locked up his shop, then headed back down to the Strip.
The sky was a deep cobalt blue. No clouds in sight. The Stratosphere Tower loomed high above us on our right just before crossing Sahara. I spotted the pawnshops to the left, just before the Sahara hotel. Just a little way down, Circus Circus was to our right, its red and white striped big top advertising its theme, and an empty lot sat where the Star-burst used to be.
Jeff took a right down Desert Inn Road toward the new Trump hotel, just before Fashion Show Mall. The Windsor Palms was adjacent to it, sort of kitty-corner.
Jeff eased around the entranceway marked by a gigantic palm tree and veered around into the parking garage. He turned to me with raised eyebrows, asking an unspoken question.
“Second level,” I said, surprised I could even remember that.
He guided the Pontiac up the ramp and turned the corner to see my Mustang Bullitt where I’d left it. Jeff stopped the car right behind it.
He looked over at me and nodded. “Here we are.”
For an awkward second I felt like I should lean over and give him a peck on the cheek. Seemed the least I could do, since he’d been so gracious and all. But then I remembered whom I was with and nodded back.
“Thanks,” I said, opening the door.
But before I could get out, I felt a hand on my arm.
“Be careful, Kavanaugh.”
I threw his hand off and laughed. “Hey, what more can happen?”
“You never know.”
I thought about Rusty Abbott coming out of Trevor’s apartment. He was right. I’d have to watch my back.
“Thanks, Jeff,” I said again, this time really getting out and slamming the car door shut.
I stepped back just as he took off like Mario Andretti in the Indy 500. A curl of smoke came out of the tailpipe as he turned the corner.
I settled into my Mustang, happy to finally be driving my own car again. The seat was contoured just right, my Springsteen CD was still in the player, and the mirror didn’t need adjusting. In honor of this trip, I put the top down, relishing the warm desert breeze, and cranked up the volume on “Jungleland.”
I tried not to think about Colin Bixby.
I drove down the Strip, and instead of being annoyed at the lights, I looked up at the palm trees in the median, felt the sun beating down on the back of my neck-oops, forgot the sunscreen-and mellowed out for the first time in days.
I reached the Venetian too soon.
The towers of the fake Doge’s Palace beckoned me, and I noticed some activity of the media kind at the entrance to Madame Tussauds wax museum, which was adjacent to the Venetian. Three TV vans were parked along the side of the road.
Curious, I turned into the entrance for valet parking. So I’d splurge-at least until I could move my car in a couple of hours. I wanted to see what was going on.
The laptop slammed against my hip as I slung the messenger bag over my shoulder and handed the valet my key. I cocked my head toward the wax museum.
“What’s going on over there?”
“Some sort of celebrity thing,” he said, taking the key.
I sauntered over toward the museum and saw that it might be easier said than done to get up the escalator to the museum entrance, because a crowd had formed. I pushed my way onto the moving incline, sandwiched between a young couple with a baby in one of those pouches and an elderly couple wearing far too much spandex.
It was a long ride.
We finally reached the top, but security guards were herding people off to the walkways and away from the museum. I was tall enough, though, to see what was going on.
Reporters hovered, their microphones held out in front of them, vying for the best position to interview the man posing next to his mirror image.
Lester Fine and his wax twin. Great. I couldn’t get away from the guy for some reason, and now there were two of him.
In a cynical moment, I had the thought that if he were running for public office, this might not be the perfect time to unveil his doppelganger.
But wasn’t it ideal to have this photo op outside, so everyone could see it, rather than just the people who paid big bucks to see all those other wax figures inside?
I mentally slapped myself, glancing down for a second so I wouldn’t bump into the spandex-clad woman in front of me. When I looked up and over at Lester Fine again, I caught my breath.
He was staring at me.
I blinked a couple of times just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. But he was. He was staring at me. And then beckoning me to come over.
“There she is,” he said loudly to the reporters. “That is the young woman who was involved with the incident at the Windsor Palms yesterday.”
I froze as the crowd stepped aside in unison to let me pass.
“Yes, yes, you, dear,” Lester Fine said, walking toward me and taking my arm, pulling me toward the wax figure.
I yanked my arm away, but Lester Fine would not be dissuaded. He smiled at me, although there was something behind his smile that totally was not sincere.
The wax figure had been forgotten. I was his new photo op.
I was not a happy camper.
The reporters were shouting at me all at once. I couldn’t make out their questions, until I concentrated on the woman standing closest to me. She was blond, familiar.
Leigh Holmes, Channel 6. We’d crossed paths before, and she’d mistakenly thought my brother would give her classified information if she slept with him. She’d had no idea that he just wanted the sex and had no intentions of sharing any sort of information. He was a guy.
“Can you tell us what happened yesterday?” she asked, the microphone bobbing so close to my nose that I stepped back slightly so as not to get hit with it, but I was now invading Lester Fine’s personal space. He didn’t seem to mind.
“What can you tell us?” Leigh Holmes insisted.
I shook my head. “I’m sorry, no comment.”
I could feel Lester Fine’s hot breath on the side of my neck. And when he asked, “Where is it?” his voice was so low I knew no one could hear him but me.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“Where is it?” he hissed.
“No, I don’t.”
He blew air through his nostrils. “Miss Kavanaugh-”
The moment he said my name, it reminded me of something. How his personal assistant, Rusty Abbott, had also said my name. Without my ever telling him what it was.
Granted, Colin Bixby could have told him yesterday. Frank DeBurra could have. But I wasn’t a hundred percent sure about that. Even though I was having doubts about Bixby right now, those HIPAA laws would have protected me, as he’d told Fine yesterday. And DeBurra, well, he wasn’t exactly the cooperating type.
I gave Lester Fine the look I’d given Cory Michaels when he told me he hadn’t stolen my lunch money out of my desk.
“How do you know my name?”
The smile was smooth, practiced, and solely for the cameras, while his tone was threatening. “If I don’t get it back-”
I snorted. Which might not go over well on the TV. A camera was aimed right at me.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said, stepping away.
That’s when I saw Rusty Abbott on the moving incline, coming toward me.