We arrived back at Open Sky to a line of about thirty news vehicles and anchors in front of cameras. The Tribal police had made a makeshift blockade in front of the valet entrance out of old utility four-wheelers and golf carts connected by crime scene tape.
“This isn’t Open Sky; it’s Circus Circus,” I quipped.
Amanda drove around to the back parking lot and police let us through.
Obviously the public hadn’t been let back into the casino by the time we got back. We found Tribal Detective Joseph in the security office.
“Haven’t the investigators finished with the main floor yet?” Amanda asked with some annoyance in her voice.
“Yes, they’re working the crime scene upstairs now.”
“Why isn’t the casino back open? The FBI doesn’t want to be responsible for people not getting paychecks for today.”
“I’m sorry, I thought you said to protect the crime scene and not let anyone in until they were done.”
“You did say that,” I reminded her.
She blushed and apologized. “I’m sorry, I meant to say when they were done with the main floor. We can rope off the second floor completely and secure the actual crime scene.” “Thank God,” Joseph replied with some relief. “The council was starting to get restless. What about the news media?”
Amanda paused in thought. “You’ll have to let them in if you open your doors,” she finally said. “But I think it’s illegal to have cameras inside a casino gaming room, so that should help.”
“I think you’re right.” Joseph went to the phone and gave some orders. He hung up and said, “Let the gambling begin.”
He escorted us through the maze of slot machines to the escalator, where we once again visited Wright’s office. Although the crime scene people were still there, we donned blue nitrile gloves and split up. Amanda began sorting through Wright’s desk and I took some cabinet drawers, both of us working around the team.
His office was huge but not as plush as I would have expected. Furniture and a chair rail was made of dark wood, as were several four-drawer filing cabinets on the left side of the office. The floor was terracotta tile in the entrance and a gold and red swirled carpet throughout the rest of the room. He also had a sitting area comprising a couple of simple brown leather chairs separated by a table and undistinguished lamp. Hanging from the ceiling were three large LCD screens with various live camera feeds from different locations in the casino.
“Don’t mind us,” I said sarcastically when someone bumped me. That gentleman gave me a look but kept dusting for fingerprints.
“Here’s something,” Amanda announced, having pulled out some paperwork from a desk drawer.
“What is it?”
“A printout of a Google map. It looks like I-90.”
“You are becoming east coast, aren’t you?” I goaded.
“What do you mean?”
“Easterners call it ‘I-90;’ westerners call it ‘the I-90.’”
“I never thought about it, but you’re right.”
“You don’t say, ‘I’m driving on street.’ You say, ‘I’m driving on the street.’”
“Ah,” she retorted. “You do say ‘I’m crossing Elm Street,’ not ‘I’m crossing the Elm Street.’”
“Touché. I should know better than to argue with you.”
I surrendered. “What was the map of?”
“It looks like a blow-up of an area near Oneida, just north of the Interstate.”
“Not really,” she replied. “Just open land, it looks like.” Amanda’s cellphone rang. I realized that it was an electronic ringtone instead of the old Billy Idol clip she used to have. She answered, said thanks, and hung up.
“Well?” I asked.
“Well, you’ll never guess where that ambulance is.”
“North of the Interstate?”
“You got it. Bill is sending me the GPS coordinates.”
I was glad to get my gloves off and I stopped at the bathroom to wash the sweat off my hands. The sound of the faucet running made me need to take a piss and I grudgingly did so, and washed my hands again.
I rejoined Amanda downstairs as she was getting crowded by some news reporters looking for their story.
“You know I can’t say anything yet,” she said in a raised voice. “I’ll have something for you later.”
I put my head down and pulled her along towards the back door where we were parked. I hoped no one would recognize me from the airline video. If they did, we might not get to leave for a long time. We were in luck.
Amanda left a little rubber as we sped away. A few minutes later, the street was devoid of traffic.
“I could use a bite,” I suggested. “How about you?”
“I could eat. I don’t want to take too long; can we drive through somewhere?”
“Sure, I don’t mind.”
Amanda found a small place called the Burger Barn that looked like it had once been an A&W drive-in. There were several young girls and guys hanging around, older than teens but not by much, listening to rap music so loud it was rattling our windows as we drove by. Many of the cars were polished up and had extra-large, low-profile wheels with alloy rims. Most of the gathering was out among their cars and sitting on tables rather than on the accompanying benches.
As we passed by the third car on our way to the drive-through lane, a ruckus broke out and we stopped to see the problem. A couple of guys were arguing, one holding a girl rather firmly. Amanda rolled down her window while a crowd gathered around the fighting kids, and we heard something that sounded like a bottle shattering on the ground. She stopped the car and we got out.
As we approached the crowd, we could hear the girl begging to be let go. I slipped between the spectators and grabbed the arm of the dude holding the girl. I separated them and Amanda led her away towards our Jeep.
The guy yanked his arm out of my grasp and took a threatening stance. “Let go, Old Man. Go back to your rest home.” Some uneasy laughter came from the group surrounding us.
“We’re just going to help this young lady get home,” I told him. “We don’t want any trouble.”
“Well, that’s too bad, ‘cause that’s what you got.”
“Don’t take anything off ‘im, Ray.” This came from the guy Ray was nearly fighting moments ago. “Go UFC on ‘im.”
I reached for my handgun but I had left it in the car.
“Good idea …” Ray replied with a smile.
I didn’t wait to see what was going to happen. I lunged at Ray and tagged him squarely in the jaw, sinking him to his knees and crushing my hand pretty good. I took a swing at the other guy and caught him in the mouth, blood spraying from his gums and lips. Even though I cut my hand on his tooth, I hit him again.
A third guy grabbed me from behind and I struggled to get my arms free. Someone hit me in the side with an old piece of wood, which broke the board and probably a rib, and the immense pain made me drop. I hit the asphalt and tried to crawl onto the grass nearby, but three or four guys started kicking me in the side. Painful as that was, I managed to keep the damage to my body and away from my head.
Keeping my wits despite the painful kicks, I managed to grab one of the flailing shoes and held on tight. I punched the attached leg as hard as I could and he went down. The other two were now striking me in the side and back, but I stayed focused on my target, who was the first guy that hit me. I crawled towards his head and ended up on top of him — I let loose three fast punches to the face, bringing blood. He pushed me off but struggled to get to his feet, and the other two backed off.
Just when it looked like they were going to make a big push to finish me off, a loud click stopped everyone in their tracks. Obviously the sound of a cocked handgun, I looked up and saw Amanda pointing her gun at Ray, the biggest of the three assailants, the girl hiding behind her.
“Another step … go ahead …” she said, and put her second hand on the weapon. “I haven’t shot anyone in three days…”
“Everyone go home!” I shouted from my knees. “The girl’s going with us.”
Ray slowly limped away with the help of another young woman, then the other two thugs, and the rest of the group all dispersed.
“I’m taking both of you to the hospital,” Amanda said and she and the girl helped me up and back to the car.
“Don’t stain the Jeep,” I said when I noticed I was bleeding from the mouth and my hand.