Down the Rabbit Hole part 2 by Paty Jager

The casino wasn’t large, but it sustained the Miwok tribal members and helped out the community. When Scott first arrived in this county, he’d been surprised at the atmosphere, cleanliness, and how the tribe gave so much to the local organizations.

He garnered a few smiles, and some wary looks, when he entered the casino wearing a green polo shirt with the county emblem and his weapon on his belt.

“Hey, Detective. Dela told me you’d be coming.” A man the age of their suspect walked up to him. “You’re early. Did someone call in a robbery?” The man guffawed at his joke.

“No, no robbery. Do you work the main entrance weekdays?” If the man worked the door, he would see who came and went.

“I’m here from ten in the morning till six at night. I valet park and give directions.” The man smiled, showing two missing teeth on the right side of his mouth.

“When was the last time you saw Mr. Forseth leave the casino?”

The older man scratched his cheek. “Yesterday. He was talking on his phone and walked right out to the parking lot, not even returning my greeting.”

“Did he come back?”

“Not that I know of.” The man studied him.

“Can you remember exactly what time he left?”

“It was about noon. A group of ladies come in from Sacramento talking about getting lunch first.” The man walked toward the casino floor. “Why are you interested in Mr. Forseth? Did something happen to him?”

“Why would you say that?” Scott fell into step beside the valet as they navigated through the slot machines. Only a tenth of the machines were being used at this time of day.

“The last time Elwin was in here, he talked about knowing a way to stop Forseth from desecrating sacred ground.”

Scott stopped the man by grasping his arm. “Dr. Elwin Drake? He threatened Forseth?”

“No, he wouldn’t harm anyone, he’s a healing man.” The valet said with conviction, leading him to a door at the far side of the gaming floor. “Go up them stairs, and you’ll be in the security room.”

“Thanks.”

Scott walked through the door and climbed the stairs. At the top, he spotted the young woman, Dela Alvaro, sitting in front of a monitor. A hallway was on the screen.

“Ms. Alvaro, are you looking at the surveillance tapes without me?” He grabbed the nearest chair and rolled it over beside the woman.

He’d startled her. She spun the chair and came face to face with him.

“Either call me Dela or Alvaro, I’m not used to being called Ms.,” she said, visually pulling herself together. “I thought I’d get everything setup and ready for you.”

He could tell by the blush of her cheeks she’d already been looking through the tapes. “Have you found anything interesting?” Scott pulled out his notepad, slapping it onto the desk in front of him and watching the screen.

 “Not in the hallway. But my boss also said to take a look at this tape when I told him about Forseth and what we were looking for.” She started with a tape timestamped the night before last.

“Why did you start here?”

 “Forseth had an argument with Ensley, his builder, in the High Limit Room night before last.” Dela glanced at him. “My boss thought it might be important.”

A punch of a button and the High Limit Room came onto the screen.

They couldn’t hear what was being said, but the body language said it all.

“Wow! Those two both look like they’d like to rip each other’s head off.” Dela said.

Scott continued to watch as Forseth turned to walk away. Ensley grabbed the investor’s arm, spinning him back around. Forseth took a swing at Ensley, landing a solid blow to the builder’s jaw. Hatred flashed in the builder’s eyes before floor security hauled the two men off.

“What happened to them after this?” Scott asked.

“My boss said Forseth went up to his suite and Ensley stormed out of the casino.”

Scott stared at the screen as Dela removed the video they’d just looked at and pushed the surveillance tape of the hallway outside the victim’s room back in. “There was a lot of time between when he left and when he was killed.”

“Do you know what time Forseth died?” Dela asked. “I checked his key card. After Vinnie saw him leave, Forseth didn’t return to his room.”

Scott studied her. Did he give her information? Her grandfather was a suspect, though he was beginning to think the man had been set up. “Eight P.M. give or take an hour either way.”

“Then Grandfather couldn’t have killed him.” Dela turned her gaze on him, triumph sparking in her eyes.

Scott decided to take the bait. “Why not?”

“I was on the phone with my cousin at eight and she said her brother had taken some goodies over to Grandfather.”

“Write down their names and numbers.” Scott slid his notepad over in front of the woman.

She pulled out her cell phone and scrolled through her contacts. When she had the names and numbers written down, she pushed the pad back to him. “You should check on Ensley’s alibi.”

“I will.” Scott studied the woman. She had dark circles under her eyes.

His cell phone buzzed. “Harper.”

“This is Sanchez. I’ve nailed down all the people who called or were called by the victim.”

Scott set his notepad on the desk. “Let me have them.”

“Oliver Ensley, he’s the builder for the victim. A restaurant, The Lone Wolfe, it’s—”

“I know where it’s at. Anyone else?” Scott knew the restaurant was at the casino. He’d go there and see who might have had dinner with the victim.

“No one else. But he received a call on his cell phone from the concierge around five-thirty last night. You would have thought they would have called his room phone.”

“Yes, you would. Thanks.” Scott ended the call and glanced at Dela. “Are you available to help me make inquiries in the casino?” He knew having her along would get him more cooperation from the staff.

“Yes, I’m not even supposed to be here until tonight.” She shut down the computer and stood.

Scott nodded to the door leading to the stairs. When she hesitated, he said, “We can take an elevator.”

The woman glared at him. “I can take the stairs. Who are we talking to?”

“I need to question the concierge and see why the Lone Wolf Restaurant called the victim.”

Dela moved ahead of him out the door, but hung back, waiting for him to take the stairs.

Not wanting to make her nervous or self-conscious, he walked down, ignoring the odd cadence of her steps.

Scott filled Dela in on what information they needed from the concierge.

“Hi Reggie,” she said, walking up to the small desk where a man about her age sat.

“What are you doing here this time of day?” he asked.

“Detective Harper has some questions for you.” She stepped to the side.

Scott opened up his notepad. “Who was working here last night around five-thirty?”

Reggie glanced at Dela who gave him a nod. “It was me. I don’t get off until six. Why?”

“Why did you call Mr. Forseth’s cell phone?” Scott studied the man as he thought back to the evening before.

“I didn’t. I wouldn’t even know his cell phone.” He thought some more and snapped his fingers. “That must be who Tommy Joe called. He came in and asked if he could use the phone.”

“You didn’t ask him who he was calling?” Dela asked, moving toward the man as if to apprehend him.

The man took a step back. “No. It was Tommy Joe. I figured anyone he’d call would be local. He’d said something about his burro not feeling well. I thought maybe he was calling your grandfather.”

“Did he make more than one call?” Scott asked.

Reggie shook his head. “No. Just the one.”

Scott flipped back to the page where his investigation notes started and circled Tommy Joe. “Thank you.” He motioned for Dela to move away from the desk. “Take me to The Lone Wolf Restaurant, please.”

“I saw you write that down in your book. They were probably confirming a reservation.”

“Exactly.” Scott hoped to find out who the reservation was with.

After talking to the manager, they learned the hostess who worked that night and the waitress who waited on the table were off and wouldn’t be back until the next day.

“If you want to know why Tommy Joe called Mr. Forseth, you could go ask him,” Dela said. “But you won’t find him by an address.”

“I suppose you know where he lives?” Scott asked.

“It’s out in the middle of chaparral, rocks, and gold mining country.”

Taking the woman was against protocol, but it would save time having her guide him to the prospector’s residence.

Continuing next week…

photo source: Depositphoto

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