"That's a dead hooker, all right," Detective Bart Schulz said, as he stood over the partially pulled out drawer in the morgue at the coroner's office.
Edwoena Carrington sometimes wondered how she had associated herself with the police. She was a beautiful blonde bombshell of a woman who could have become a model or a playboy bunny or anything besides a cop. She could have spent her time be ogled by rich men instead of enduring the sarcasm and hard heartedness of the local boys. For some reason she'd felt compelled to not follow in the footsteps of her showgirl mother, so she'd chosen a completely different life.
"Her name is Chenille," Eddie Carrington snapped at the detective. "She has a name. Where did you find her?"
Detective Schulz heaved a heavy sigh. He'd worked with Eddie for a few years now, and he knew how emotional she got when something of this nature happened. Eddie had been a vice cop for seven years, and she'd become way too attached to some of the girls that she worked with.
"I hate to give you details on these things, because I know how you get," he whined at her.
"How about a cause of death?" Eddie demanded. "Maybe a time of death? Anything? I have to tell Madame Wu something when I stop by."
The coroner had tried to stand silently, because arguments between the two police officers never went well. It was a well known fact that Bart and Eddie had once been in item, and it had not ended well. They could barely be civil to one another on the job when they had to cross paths. They'd both been arrested for having arguments in casinos on the strip on their time off. They had a relationship that was designed, carried out, and finished in hell.
"Officer Carrington, the time of death was around midnight," the coroner said. "She drowned. They found her in a dumpster behind Terrible's Casino. I'm very sorry. It seems as though she was a friend of yours."
"Thank you, Jose," Eddie replied. She turned to Bart. "Was that so hard?"
Eddie stared at the girl lying on the shelf. She was so young. Eddie hadn't known her that long. Chenille hadn't been working for Madame Wu for more than a few months. She couldn't have been more than 21 years old. Madame Wu wouldn't have hired her if she was younger than that. Madame Wu had standards in a business that rarely had any standards or rules. All the girls at Madame Wu's had fake names. Eddie hadn't known Chenille long enough to even know her real name. Eddie hated it when things like this happened, but it sometimes got a little wild and shady in Vegas.
Eddie and Bart walked out of the morgue together. Eddie had to get outside and get some air. She hated the smell of death that lingered constantly in the morgue. Now she had to figure out what to tell the other girls and Madame Wu. This was the second girl to be murdered in three weeks. She hoped they weren't related. The other girl had been a girl who went by the name of Queenie, and she had been strangled and left at a rest stop out by Hoover Dam. The two girls were nothing alike in looks or age. Their clientele probably was very different. There was a good chance that the two were unrelated.
"Would you like me to go with you to tell Madame Wu?" Bart asked her.
"No, she doesn't like you," Eddie snapped back.
"You know, I'm just trying to help!" Bart exclaimed. "I hate it when you pull this independent, ain't needin' nobody bullshit. Why don't you take a little help once in a while?"
Eddie stopped and turned to face him. "Look, I appreciate your trying to help. I really do. I am serious about Madame Wu not liking you. She did nothing but complain the whole time that we dated. I don't know why she doesn't like you, but she really doesn't."
"Maybe it's because she's a whore," Bart snapped. "I mean really, if this was any place else in the country, all those chicks would be in jail."
"There goes that sanctimonious attitude again," Eddie snapped. She continued to walk to her car. Bart followed, so she continued to lecture him. "Prostitution is legal here. Deal with it. It's every woman's right what she does with her body. These girls sell it. That's their prerogative. Why can't you just accept that?" She stopped at her car and unlocked the door.
Bart smiled to himself as he stopped behind her at her lime green 1968 VW Beetle. She'd had that car ever since he'd known her. She refused to buy anything else. She'd had the thing custom painted so that she wouldn't lose it in parking garages. He'd told her a thousand times that the things were death traps and that she should buy something safer, but she didn't care. It was the only car she'd ever had, and she was keeping it until the day she died.
"I can accept that. It doesn't mean that I have to like it," Bart protested. "Look a woman's body should be worshipped, not exploited. Is that such a bad belief?"
Eddie turned and looked him in the eye. "No, it just doesn't give you the right to tell everyone else what to do." With that, she got into her old Beetle and took off.
"Eddie, dear," Madame Wu greeted her when she walked in the door. "Jasmine is almost ready. She told me to tell you that she would be right down."
Eddie slapped her forehead with the butt of her palm. She forgot that she and her best friend, Helen, AKA Jasmine, were going flying that afternoon. The two of them had their private pilot's licenses and were going out regularly to work up enough hours to carry paying passengers. The two girls had been working on their flying licenses and saving their money for years to quit their jobs and run a flight seeing business of their very own. They had it all planned out. They would to fly overs of the strip, Lake Meade, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon for regular trips. They also had a long list of custom trips that they would offer. It was both Eddie and Helen's dream to fly for a living and own their own business.
"What is it, dear?" Madam Wu asked her.
Eddie hated to give the kindly old Madame and bad news. "I forgot about the flying. That's not why I'm here. I'm afraid I have some bad news about Chenille."
Madame Wu nearly fell onto a chaise. "Oh no. I was hoping that she'd run off and gotten married or something." She looked solemnly at Eddie. "I guess that isn't where she's been."
"No, they found her a little while ago. She was murdered. I'm so sorry," Eddie told her. Then it occurred to her that Madame Wu knew that the girl was missing. She'd just said so. "What did you mean, you'd hoped that she'd run off and gotten married? Did you know she was missing? Damn it, Pia, how many times do I have to tell you? If there is something wrong around here, call me!"
"What'd going on?" came a voice from the doorway.
It was Helen, Eddie's best friend and currently and employee of Madame Wu's Gentlemen's Club. Helen was about Eddie's age. She was not a young girl for her business, but she was only in her late twenties, so she still looked great. Eddie had arrested Helen six years ago for working on the streets, and she'd gotten her a job with Madame Wu. The two women had so much in common that they became fast friends. They hung out together all the time. Eventually, the two had come up with the idea to get into the flight seeing business and now they spent all of their spare time working toward that end.
"They found Chenille in a dumpster behind Terrible's," Eddie told her.
Helen shook her head. "She was a nice girl. That's all I have to say about that. Let's go flying. I need to do something positive."
Eddie decided that whatever she could find out from Madame Wu could wait for a couple of hours. She could see by the look on Helen's face that she needed to get away for a little while before dealing with it.
When the two women landed, they both shut off their engines and ran for the drink machine in the hangar they operated out of at Boulder City Airport, and downed a bottle of water apiece. It was a very hot summer day in the desert, and there wasn't enough water ever.
Eddie couldn't decide whether to drink the water or pour it over her head. She loved to fly, and she loved to fly the small planes, but the air conditioning options on Cessnas left something to be desired. No matter how little clothing she wore, Eddie always ended up sweating like a pig.
The two girls sat on the shaded cement floor of the hangar and caught their breath. After a few minutes, Helen looked at Eddie. "So what happened to Chenille? Was she strangled like Queenie?"
"No, she drowned," Eddie replied.
Helen looked at her wide eyed. "She drowned in a dumpster behind Terrible's? Sounds like that place has a water problem. Do you know anything else? Because that's absurd."
"I don't have much," Eddie replied. "I was hoping that Pia could shed some light on it, but she's still keeping things from me. That won't help. I hope those two aren't connected. I want you to get out of there."
"Two more months and we'll be in business," Helen told her. "That very moment, I will quit."
"Yeah, well do me a favor," Eddie started.
"What?" Helen asked.
"Just don't go out for a while. Work out of the club until I get a bearing on this guy. I don't want anything bad to happen to you," she told Helen. "I don't make friends that often. I'd like to keep you around."
Helen's expression softened. "Okay, I promise. Damn, you don't judge me for being a hooker, and you still give me guilt trips. That's truly amazing."
"Whatever, come on. Let's go back to the club and see if Pia knows anything about Chenille's last date," Eddie said.
"You won't like it," Helen warned her.
"You know something. Give," Eddie ordered her.
"You won't like it," Helen said.
"Fine, I was there when Chenille took off last night. The girl is so blonde. She was going to meet her future husband she said. He was the perfect man. He was rich, smart and good looking, and best of all, didn't come from Vegas."
"Sounds like a typical John," Eddie noted.
"Yeah, anyway she said she was going to meet him, and she hoped that she wouldn't be back. Chenille wasn't liking the business too well. I'm not sure what she expected."
"That's why Pia hoped that she'd run off and gotten married."
"That's all you know? That's not much."
"She called him Mark Twain," Helen said, reluctantly.
Eddie looked at Helen for a moment and considered everything. "So I'm looking for a guy that drowned a hooker in the desert that calls himself Mark Twain? Great."