Someone alerted housekeeping about the water when it soaked the carpet in the hallway. The maid let herself in when no one answered her knock. Then someone called me when they heard her screams, and I came running.
She wasn’t screaming when I got there, just hyperventilating in the hall. It was early, so the screams didn’t rouse everyone out of bed, but there were more than a few angry faces, blotched from last night’s drinking, glaring out of their doors at us.
Judy was the name on the maid’s nametag. She wasn’t hurt, just shaken. She pointed through the open door. I went on in, and let her catch her breath.
The body was in the bathroom. From Judy’s reaction, I imagined something more gruesome, but Judy didn’t spend twelve years investigating homicides, so maybe she was a tad less jaded than me.
In the tub, a man in his mid-fifties floated face down in a red broth. Possible accident. Possible suicide. Possible homicide. Natural causes seemed unlikely with all that blood.
The water was still running. Using my handkerchief to preserve prints, I turned off the spigot. Shouldn’t touch anything at a crime scene, but I couldn’t let the lower floors flood with bloody water.
The water would do some damage, but we couldn’t start cleanup until the Reno crime lab finished with the scene. I pulled out my phone, and called the police to get the ball rolling.
Judy found the body to be less disturbing than the prospect of missing a day’s pay. After I asked some questions, she went back to work. I put cones around the soggy perimeter of the spreading stain in the hall carpet.
Just as I finished a voice asked, “Mr. Chance?”
I turned around expecting the police, but it was a big, longhaired guy wearing sneakers, fatigue shorts, and an Iron Maiden T-shirt.
“Yeah, I’m Chance. How can I help you?”
“Security office said I should talk to you.”
I indicated the cones and the flooded hallway with a nod. “I got a situation here. I hope to be back in my office in a half hour.” It was the truth too. I really did hope to be back by then, however improbable that wish may have actually been.
He shook his head. “If I had a half hour, I could eat breakfast, take a dump, take a nap, and still have time to take a smoke break. If I could do all that, I wouldn’t be here bothering you all hungry, stopped-up, tired, and cranky like I am now. On the way here, I passed three buffets, a dozen restrooms, four-cigarette machines, and three floors full of beds. But that’s not the irony here. The irony is, I already know you’re going to tell me you can’t help me. But I’m an idiot who has this compulsion to do the right thing, so here I am, bending your ear. Since it’s already bent, just hear me out. Since you’re not going to help me anyway.”
He had a lanyard around his neck with a wad of laminated backstage passes hanging from it. I couldn’t read the mangled graphics on the pass, but ‘Red’ was written across the bottom in black marker. I figured that was his moniker since it matched his hair.
I recognized the bleary-eyed sleep-deprived stubborn focus of a road tech. His attire suggested he worked for a rock band. Probably the Radioactive Behemoth concert. They were playing our amphitheater tonight. Supposed to be a big thing. I went more for country western myself.
“Alright Red, I’m listening. What’s on your mind?”
He let out a pent up breath. “Good. Because I’m ready to break an arm off a slot machine and run amok with it. You don’t want to have to deal with that. I’ve developed a wicked tolerance to animal tranquilizers.”
He cocked an eyebrow, waited for a response. I couldn’t tell if it was a challenge or an invitation to laugh, so I did nothing. Seemed to be the right choice, he was calmer when he continued.
“I’m venting. I apologize. I’m busting ass double-time and falling farther behind every minute.”
It seemed a good opportunity to recap. “You came all this way to tell me you’re busy?”
He nodded. “Our juicer, Fritz, isn’t working.”
“Your juicer’s on the fritz?”
“Your juicer’s stolen.” I thought I was getting it.
“You think it’s stolen?” I wasn’t getting it.
“Fritz Warren handles power distribution for the show, among other things. He’s our juicer. He’s missing.”