An early nature call, don't resist it. I sat up in bed and looked over. Oh yes! Second night in Las Vegas and I've scored. Big time! I'm looking at a bare female bum in the 'bottom superior' position, known in the vernacular as ---- up. No time to savour the view, I stepped briskly over to the en suite and conducted my various ablutions. I hurried back to the fray, I didn't want her to take flight or settle into a yoga routine. Nope, the bared botty was still in situ. Oh happy day! I gave it a playful pat. Geez, that's one cold bum. The air con was going full blast. We needed it last night the way we were generating body heat. But even so --- I grabbed her shoulder, cold also, and shook her gently at first then vigorously. She didn't shake. The bloody woman's rigid. Out of bed, I scuttled around to the other side, bent down and looked into her face. I was looking at half opened eyes and dried spittle on her lips. She's gotta be dead! I checked for a pulse in her neck and any sign of breath. Nope, a waste of time. She had to be dead for hours. How the hell did I get meself in this damn mess?


The phone woke me. There was no light seeping around the curtains. I pulled the blankets over my head but the phone was insistent – and penetrating. I reached over and switched on my little alarm clock's light. Nearly four a.m. “What!” I screamed into the phone. “Is this urgent? Do you know what the bloody time is?”

Eddy? Sorry, I thought it was nine p.m.”

“Who is it?” I growled.

“Your Aunty Edna.”

That figured. She's female: reality is not a strong point with that lot.

I took a deep breath and calmed down. “Hi Aunt Edna, to what do I owe this pleasure?” Trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.

“Sorry Eddy, I'll let you get back to sleep in a moment but I need to see you.”

“Well you didn't need to see me at Mum's funeral. Mum bein' your older sister, remember.” I said.

“That was a part of my problem. But I did make it for your twenty-first, do you remember?”

“Yeah, that was over a decade ago.”

“Can you visit me? It's really important.” Aunt Edna said.

“Where are you?”

“Las Vegas.” She replied.

“You've gotta be jokin'.”

“I'm serious, Eddy. I'll pay for your airfares and even a layover in Hawaii, to break the flight.”

“Bloody great, Aunt Edna. But why? Do you remember me as a charming soul or as a handsome addition to the family?”

Aunt Edna laughed. “I take it you're still not married? I'll even pay for a nose job for you. That'll help you with the ladies.”

“That's just rude, Aunt Edna but nope - not married, I'm playing the field. When I can find a field to play on. You really want me over there. Why?”

“Short answer, We're the last two of the family left and very shortly you'll be the last one. I'm moderately wealthy and I'm dying – slowly. Not slow enough. Incidentally that's why I couldn't come to your mum's funeral. I was too ill. But your mum and I kept in touch. She told me you were a lazy, low-achiever but good-natured, kind and thoughtful.”

“Gees, I sound like the family pet.”

“Whatever. My lawyer told me that I've got to make a will or the government gets it all. So Eddy, my beloved nephew, it's either you or a cat's home. And I'd like to see who I might be giving my hard-earned to.”

“Hang in there my dearest Aunty, I'm on my way,” I said. “I know that I can get either compassionate or long service leave from my government job. Oops. I've gotta get a passport. I'll take a sicky and get to a travel agent today.”

I never got back to sleep. I lay there thinking: Vegas Baby!


I took a sleeping pill and slept most of the ten-hour night flight out of Sydney to Honolulu. I spent three days doing the tourist bit then flew six plus hours on to Las Vegas arriving at two pm, local time. A black bloke holding up a sign with my name greeted me and carried my meagre baggage to a limo. A limo! I'm gunna have to learn to love Aunt Edna. We skirted the CBD and arrived at Sunny-side Assisted Living Village in less than thirty minutes. The security bloke checked my name off on his phone and waved us through. And there was Aunt Edna sitting on her little porch sipping a cuppa. The driver placed my baggage on the porch and left smiling after Aunt Edna slipped him something.

I hugged Aunt Edna and said. “What's the story but first what's a bloke gotta do to get a drink around here?”

She told me to get a can of beer from her fridge. “Sit with me Eddy and I'll tell you my story.”

Edna told me that moving about is a bit of a trial for her. She has a degenerative condition with a thirty-seven syllable hyphenated name that translates to Dog's Disease. She can get about with a cane or a walking frame and even enjoys an occasional drink that her doctor doesn't know about. But her time is finite.


I'd spent the first day in Vegas recovering from the flight and chatting with my wealthy benefactor, Aunt Edna. And swilling her beer. Well, she told me that she had ordered a carton in for me. I was starting to love my Aunt Edna. And Stella beer.

Considering she's got Parkinson's, she's not looking too bad. She's gotta be about fifty. A bit skinny, pretty with dark hair, grey at the temples, big brown eyes and a nice smile. I'm thinking Aunt Edna may have left a string of broken hearts behind her. She reminds me of --- Yeah, my mum! But my mum put some weight on and that was her undoing. A heart attack six months after Dad died of the same thing. Slow learners, my parents.

"Are you staring at me, Eddy?"

"Um - Yeah, you look like Mum."

Aunt Edna took me to one of her favourite restaurants for lunch. Its in a french style casino with it's own Eiffel Tower. She didn't like to go out alone but with me to help her, she dared it. Bloody good tucker and Aunt Edna's good company. We chatted away like long lost-friends which I suppose we were in a way. She even told me that my mum named me Eddie, not Edward, after her. I'm glad she didn't go the whole way and name me Edna.

“Edna, how come you've got all this money? Mum said you were a teacher. That doesn't pay particularly well, does it? Did you hit the jackpot here in Vegas? Marry a millionaire? Rob a bank?

"No, no and no. Yes, I was a schoolteacher. But a special one. I'd always had a flare for maths. Loved it! It's pure logic, you know. I went to university on a maths scholarship and was ultimately recruited to teach at a women's college in New York. State-side colleges head-hunt around the world. In my spare time, I developed an algorithm. A little over twelve months later I perfected it, patented it, and hawked it around the A.I. community. The word was out! A lot of bidding and bribery and your good old Aunty Edna was rich."

“Wow Edna, and I can barely count my change! Wait a minute. Will your whatsit ever become redundant?”

“Who knows, it's a solid base for a lot of variations. It may go on forever, but that won't be my worry. I'll be long gone but there's more than enough money now to see you through - unless you're stupid.”


I hit the sack early, a combination of jet lag, and Stella beer. The next day over brekkie I told Edna about Mum, her illness and her passing. Then I rattled on about my life.

“So Eddy, you're saying that your mum was right: you're a lazy, low achiever?”

“Yeah, I guess,” I smiled at her, “But I'm enjoying my life. I inherited Mum's house free and clear. I've got a government job for life and have a few good friends. We play a poor game of golf occasionally - hit and giggle, you know. Um- we drink frequently, we're mostly single and we have girl-friends now and then but nothing serious.” I smiled, “I reckon girls give up on us. I've gotta few dollars in me pocket and a good old car. Life's sweet, Aunty Edna.”

“Life's sweet, Eddy? Sounds terrible. Don't you want to travel overseas? Find a wonderful lady to share your life? Comfort you when you've got problems?”

“Dunno, Aunt Edna,” I mused, “travel maybe but women tend to have a lotta baggage. They take things too seriously. Oh yeah, some of the married women are really bossy.”

Aunt Edna stared at me and then suddenly laughed. “Your mum was right. You're hopeless. But one day some young lady may see something in you and make the supreme effort.”

I smiled. “She'd wanna be someone special.”

“Oh Eddy, she will be. Now go to town and cruise the casinos, you might find her tonight.”

Very prophetic Aunt Edna!


I was swanning around the Planet Casino's main game floor. I stopped here and there to put a little in the pokies – oops – the slots as the locals say.

Then an unforgettable moment! A waitress with a tray stopped and asked me if she could get me a drink. I didn't hear her at first because of the din from the slots, music and the croupiers encouraging the mugs. She had elevated her tray to prove that she was a waitress. All I could see was an overflowing uniform top and of course - an overflowing tip jar displayed on the tray. I considered her offer carefully and looked her in the eye. "No thanks love, I'm a recovering alcoholic.” I lied with half a beer in my hand. She jiggled off on a pair of ridiculous heels. I believe what she was wearing is a black corselette with red trim. I wondered if I was the only one who thought that her uniform was tasteful.

Back to my fruitless quest to find love and fortune but so far - no luck. Then my luck changed! I was on my second lap of the games room wondering at the frenetic activity, I was passing the bar and slowed as I approached an unattended woman. I remembered her from my first lap. She had been having an intense conversation with another woman. This one's quite nice- looking, with shortish dark hair, maybe thirty, but who'd know with the cunning female artifices available these

days. A little overweight in the American style with the surplus nicely displayed over the top of a black sleeveless dress and slightly more than a maidenly bit of leg showing. So I assumed my Joe Cool mantel, paused and said. "Why so glum, Chum?”

She looked at me, I could see her eyes focusing. “Good one, Sport. A real zinger.”

“I've gotta heap of 'em, Luv.”

“I can imagine. Each one better than the last?” She asked.

Now, I'm not always the quickest one out of the gates but I know she's a-takin' of the mickey.

“Yeah Luv, enjoy your evening,” I told her and started to move on to greener pastures.

“A moment my handsome prince. So far you've been boring. Try and redeem yourself with your best come-on.”

“I'm not sure that I want to." I told her. "I reckon that you'd be a hard row to hoe. So I'll ---”

“I'm damned if I know what you're on about. You talk real funny.” She interrupted, “do you have a speech impediment? If so, go with my apologies.”

“No Madam, I don't have a speech impediment, I'm an Australian.”

“Oh, that's Europe, right?”

“Yeah.” Near enough, I thought. Don't be fussy, Eddy, she seems to be your only option.“Buy you a drink?”

She waved to the bartender and held up two fingers. A bit rude I thought. If I held up two fingers back home the bartender would belt me but within seconds this one arrived with two clear drinks with a lot of ice. No money changed hands. I guessed she's running a tab, as the Yanks say. I'll have to return the shout.

“Good health.” I toasted her,

“Whatever.” She shrugged.

That's the spirit, I thought. Am I wasting my time? I'll lay it out for her, clear and simple. “Do yer wanna go halves?”

She looked a little quizzical, the first expression I'd seen on her face. There's a thing - her face was probably botoxed, lifted and overlayed with half an inch of make-up. She was probably past her use-by date.

“Halves? Oh, in a jug of these voddies. Good thinking you smooth-talking foreign devil.”

No, I meant halves in a bit of the old consensuality but I'll hold my tongue and see what happens.

She was sounding enthusiastic. “We'll take the whole jug up to my room and you can tell me about Europe.”


So there I was staring at a dead, naked woman! In a crime novel I remembered reading that rigor mortis can set in after so many hours depending on various factors like the ambient temperature. Move on idiot! Don't worry about details. I could feel panic settling on me. Calm down and think: Fight or flight? Simple: bugger off. There's nothing I could do to help her. Pre-buggering off procedure: damp flannel from the bathroom and wipe everything I might have touched. Bathroom fittings and surfaces, bed-side table, door knobs and just pray they don't fingerprint her body. God knows what I touched there and besides I don't want to roll her over. Oops, don't forget my voddy glass.

I dressed, checked everywhere, under the pillow, under the bed, wallet in my pocket and peeped out the door. All clear – walk, don't run. Wait! I hung the Do Not Disturb sign on the door knob and wiped it too. Dunno why I'm worryin' about fingerprints. Neither the Yanks nor the Australian cops had mine.Fortunately, I had my new Las Vegas cap on and pulled low. Also fortunately, I had it on last night. I was aware that these casinos had security cameras everywhere. I'm gunna have to be lucky. I knew I didn't kill her. She might have had a heart attack brought on by an ecstasy overload. I nearly smiled. I had thought of ringing reception and telling them that they had a stiff, to use Yankee parlance, in residence. But no point. They couldn't help her. I took a lift down to the main games floor and mooched around. It's still busy at 6am. I'm watching for a group leaving. Yeah, here we go. I sorta merged around the edges and left with them. “How did you do?” I asked one of them and got a mouthful of abuse. The valet parker called for their car and I strolled off towards the Strip then mingled with the crowd moving in the direction of Aunt Edna's place. I folded my cap up and stuffed it in my hip pocket just in case anyone was looking for a cool dude in a cap. I walked through the Bellagio Casino, pausing to watch the fountain display just like the hundreds of others.

If my guts weren't churning, if my nerves weren't vibrating, I'd have thought, bloody marvellous! No doubt about the Yanks when they do something its big, bold and spectacular! Then I moved on to their transit centre and got the bloke calling for taxis to get me one. And I'm home free – I hope. I wondered if the great state of Nevada has the death penalty.

As I entered the taxi the driver handed me a deck of cards. “Any thing here catch your eye, Stud? I can have your selection on your doorstep in thirty minutes – or her younger sister. Or both at a discounted rate.” They were a little larger than playing cards with attractive females pictured both sides.

“No thanks, Driver." After tonight I don't wanna get up close and personal for a long, long time.

“Well, if your preference varies ---”

“Hell no!”

The taxi – no it's a cab in the USA – driver shut up and I had a chance to think back over my holiday so far. Where the hell had I gone wrong?

During the cab drive back to Aunty Edna's Assisted Living complex, I tried to work out what the hell happened. But got no sense out of it. I've got a track record of poor decisions and this looks like another one. A bad one! It's all her fault, what's her name, oh yeah, Anna's fault: she was sitting there radiating charm at me. It would have been ungallant to ignore her. And I've never been accused of ungallantness. And how could I have avoided it short of embracing a lifetime of celibacy.



“Here ya go, Champ.” The cab driver had stopped out the front of Aunt Edna's complex. I showed my pass to the security bloke and arrived at my temporary home a few minutes past seven a.m. and found Aunt Edna on her little porch sipping coffee.

“Aunt Edna, I think I've blown it!”

"Blown it? I'm not surprised. Unpressed jeans and joggers. You look like a hill-billy. You need pressed trousers, Eddy and polished leather shoes. Nice ladies won't look at you dressed like that. "

"Yeah well, that's the trouble. One did!" I told her.

“And another thing, where were you? I was worried. A phone call would have been nice, Eddy, You're a babe in the woods in this town.”

“You were worried? Not as worried as me. I may be in deep doo-doo. Let me get a cuppa going and I'll tell you all about it.” I paused. “Well nearly all about it.”

“You were either kidnapped by gypsies or you met a new lady friend?”

So I told my favourite rich aunty all about it – less the sweaty details. She said a very rude word for which her sister, my mum, would have slapped her.

“Yeah, exactly that, Aunty dearest.”

“I always knew that homo erectus was not safe in the jungle," Aunt Edna said, "and so it proves even in the urban jungle of Vegas.”

“A bit sanctimonious. What do you think I should do?” I asked her.

Edna thought for a while. “You know, a week out of town may be a good career move. We'll both

go! There's less chance a desperate dame will try to ensnare you if I'm your chaperone.”

“Aunt Edna, are you sayin' they've gotta be desperate to have anything to do with me?

“Quit while you're in front, Eddy.”

“Well that was rude, Aunt Edna. Where will we go?”

“My old stamping ground, Noo York.. And just call me Edna. You're making me feel even older than I am.”

At nine am Edna rang a travel agent and booked us accommodation for a week in NYC, plane tickets and a limo to pick us up, flying out tomorrow morning. Oh yeah, disabled support at both ends for Edna.


The next morning we arrived at Vegas' McCarran Airport and found the service desk. They had a wheelchair for Edna and were arranging our booking and luggage when a couple of large security yobs confronted us. One had a hand on his holstered gun and the other was shuffling through a handful of photos.

“A moment if you would, Sir. Is this a photo of you?” He asked.

I glanced at the photo. I shook my head and said, “No. Not me.”

Edna looked and said. “Of course it's you Eddie, look at the nose!”

“Et tu, Edna.” I accused.

She turned to the officer. “What's the problem?”

"Probably a misunderstanding. The police will be here in a moment and explain the situation.”

Edna whispered. “Say one word only. 'Lawyer'. Nothing else!”

I nodded.

Within a few minutes two plain-clothes cops walked over to us and introduced themselves. The alpha cop was a large black man, cheerful and smiling. with his hand out. “Hi Sir, I'm Detective Sergeant Amos Jones and this is my compadre, Detective Constable Jerry James." The constable was tall, skinny, sour and dour looking. Definitely a squelch at a party.

“And you are?"

“Eddy Palmer,” I told him.

“Well Eddy, it seems you can help us with a small problem. If you come with us we'll sort it out in no time.”

“But Officer we're booked to fly to New York in an hour.” Edna `told him.

The sergeant cop turned to the flight service lady and asked if she could defer the bookings. She nodded. The cop looked about, waved and two uniforms marched over, cuffed and wheeled a voluble, protesting me out to a patrol car.

Edna was arguing with the big black cop as I left. I found out later that they had the decency to help her to a cab. In the meantime, I was thrown into a cell because I wouldn't say anything but, 'lawyer.'

After an hour a stranger turned up at my cell and introduced himself as Edna's lawyer. He didn't inspire much confidence. A short, weedy little bloke with sharp features. He reminded me of a ferret hiding in a large, sweat-stained suit. “I'm Al, never lie to me or I'm gone.” We had a private conference, with him repeatedly interrupting me as I related the whole story. "Here's a thing Al," I asked, I hung a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door as I left. How come Anna was found so quickly?"

“The police told me she was booked out at ten am, the cleaning woman waited until eleven then knocked and entered with her master key. But that's the least of your problems. You have lots more.” Al told me. “One: they have security cameras tracking you going up in the elevator with the deceased party but not coming down with her in the morning. Guess what they'll think, Eddy. They'll probably find your fingerprints in the room. But! They have a DNA team going over the room and the deceased very thoroughly. So they'll find traces of you.

"Second problem: They're having problems identifying the deceased. The only ID of any sort that she had is a credit card in the name of Anna Romano. It was issued through a private off-shore bank registered in Liberia which at first glance appears to be a shopfront or agency for everything from banks, gambling and ship registrations. The upshot is, the cops don't have a clue who she is.”

“Curiouser and curiouser.” I commented.

“So she may be a spy or a Russian mafia gangster's moll. Either way your situation could be fraught particularly with the cops poking about.”

“I wanna go home to Australia.”

“Eddy, if you've been monkeying with one of those monkey's monkey, they could be vengeful and track you down anywhere. No matter what far-flung outpost of your empire your hiding in. That's the bad news.

“The good news is the cops don't really think you killed her. They suspect she had a heart attack. Did she seem to be excited?”

“Of course!” I told him indignantly.

“Yeah, yeah, silly question. They are prepared to release you on your cognizance if you surrender your passport.”

“That's okay. They've got it anyway.” I told him.

“Let's go Eddy. I've bailed you and your your Aunt Edna's waiting.”

---- SORDID DEEDS ----

Edna and I were having a cuppa on her little porch when her phone rang. I could hear our lawyer's nasal twang - a New York accent? But I couldn't catch what he's saying. Edna was nodding and saying, “aha, aha.” She hung up, turned to me and said. “It would seem, my dear nephew, that your dalliance may have been with a Russian. The medical Examiner said her dental work was Eastern European style, probably Russian. Tell me Eddy, when she was delirious with delight did she scream out Dah or Nyet?”

“No Edna and I'm not going to discuss this sort of thing with my maiden aunt.”

“I'm hardly your maiden aunt, Eddy. Besides, this is as close to sex as I get these days.”

“Enough Edna.” Is nothing sacrosanct, I thought. "You should join an old geezer's writing club if you want a buzz.

"Edna, you wanna go out for a late lunch and point out the city sights on the way? All this before I'm locked up?”

We went to the MGM Grand Casino's restaurant. It was tricked out as a mini-jungle with artificial animals and birds popping out of the artificial foliage lining the walls. The waitresses were done up in khaki as Steve Irwin lookalikes except one. She was dressed as Tarzan's Jane in a skimpy leather 10

loincloth plus a couple of bits. She was wearing sandshoes. I suppose health regs require footwear in a restaurant. I decided the shoes spoilt the effect so I didn't look at them.

“Eddy, I can't help but notice you noticing that waitress,” Edna said. “In light of your recent history should you be embracing a policy of celibacy rather than a policy of embracing our waitresses?”

“Yeah, spot on Edna. After the recent event, I'm giving up on women. I might take up stamp collecting instead of marriage.”

Something occurred to me. "Edna, talking of marriage, I know you were married, Mum told me. I haven't asked you because I thought it might be a sore point. But I'm curious---"

"It's alright, Eddy, It was a sore point," Edna said. "When my one true love realised how disabled and dependent I was going to become, he walked out. I thought we were a match made in heaven but --- "

"That's kinda tough, Edna."

"The only good thing was, he didn't realise how much money my accountant was raking in and stashing away."

Just then my phone rang. “it's my lawyer again.” I told Edna.

“What's he want?” Edna asked.


“Well, for goodness sake ask him.”

“I was gunna but you keep talking at me.”

“Hey Al, what's the good news?” I asked.

“I don't know if it is good news, Eddy. How quickly can you get to the police station? That sergeant called me, they've got patrol cars looking for you everywhere.”

“Great Al, just great! Fifteen minutes to finish dinner and ten minutes to take Edna home. Tell 'em if they want me they can pick me up there.”

“I'll let them know and I'll be there waiting for you,” Al assured me as he hung up.

“What's happening, Eddy?” Edna asked.

"Fancy that," I said.

"What Eddy? What?"

“Brace yourself, they've discovered that the deceased Anna's bearing my child posthumously,” I told her.


“Finish your lunch Edna, Al's gunna take me for another yarn with the cops.”

"You're not dropping me off Eddy, I've got too much invested in these shenanigans."


"What are you talking about?

"You, you fool! As my last surviving relative and the fact that I lured you over here. You're my responsibility. You're playing with the big boys and you're out of your depth. And that's for sure.

"Are you saying that I don't know what I'm doin'?"

"Now you've got it, my little chickadee." My rude aunt said as our lawyer pulled up at the police station.


The big black cop greeted me with a smile. “Well Mr Eddy Palmer, the medical examiner said that your paramour died of a heart attack---" He told me with a smile.

“You dragged me down here to tell me that?”

“--- caused by a severe cardiac arrest---”

“Makes sense,” I said.

“--- brought on by arrhythmia---”

“Yeah, yeah.” I interrupted impatiently.

“---caused by a poisonous substance.”

“What! I never poisoned her. We were good friends. Obviously! I was looking forward to the

next bout of good friendship. Why in the hell would I kill her?” I was aware that I was ranting.

My lawyer squeezed my arm. “Shut up, Eddy. These guys are winding you up, hoping you'll blurt out something that they can use against you.”

He turned to the cop. "Tell us about the poison please."

“Well, the toxicology guys think that it may be a cocaine overdose.” Sergeant Amos Jones said. “They're running tests now. Determining the strength of the dose and the state of her health. All that will determine how quickly it affected her. It can give you a boost or make you sleepy or even cause cardiac arrest.”

“There's a thing.” I said. “She eventually went to sleep. I put it down to the vodkas. I tapped her on the shoulder but her response wasn't satisfactory. So I guess I drifted off meself. The voddies, you know.”

"Up to that point Eddy, how did she seem?" The cop asked.

"Okay. She seemed to get friskier as the night went on where-as I wasn't."

"Did she go to the bathroom during the course of the evening?"

"Yeah, a cuppla times."

"She may have been having a cocaine boost." The cop said.. "And about what time did she go to sleep?"

"Dunno. Maybe midnight."


"You too?"


"Eddy, that's when the Medical Examiner suspects that she died."

"You mean I was cuddling a corpse all night?"

“Well Eddy, you look like our best suspect.” The sergeant said. "We suspect you fed her cocaine so you could have your way with her. And that's statutory rape, Pal."

My lawyer reared back. “Really? You don't think she took it herself. Maybe she's got a history of drug abuse. She could have been sniffing this stuff for hours before Eddy met her and then gave herself a boost in the bathroom before tackling Eddy.” Al was really goin' for it. “You've got zilch so I'll tell you what I'm going to do Sergeant, I'm going to walk Eddy out of here right now. If you want to embarrass yourself: charge him. I'll have him before a magistrate in the morning and I'll rip you to shreds. And I'll encourage the poor innocent schmuck to sue you and the Vegas P.D. for millions.”

"Schmuck?" That's very rude, I thought.

“Take it easy Al, we're just looking at options.” The sergeant said.

“Well our option is: we're going for a drink. Hasta la vista, gentlemen. C'mon Eddy.”


Hang on!" I was having a recall. There was a woman getting into Anna's face when I was cruising about exploring the scene. I remember thinking at the time they were both pretty intense and I was glad I wasn't between them. Not that they were yelling but I could feel the tension so I kept moving. The next time I lapped the game room Anna was by herself and that's when Fast Eddy made his move. I wonder ---

“Hold it, gentlemen. I've just remembered ---” and I told Al and the cops about the intense woman. “Mind you they may have just been arguing about a sports result.”

The cops were gaping at me, then Al asked me if I could put a time on the apparent confrontation.

“Maybe about thirty minutes before the security pix of me puttin' the moves on Anna.”

Al drove me 'n' Edna to the casino with the cops hot on our tail. Maybe they thought that we'd do a dash for the border.

"Eddy dear, this is more exciting than your suggestion that I join a poetry or a story writing group isn't it?" Edna said.


Our Sgt Plod told the casino valet parker to leave both cars right there by the door. "And call security pronto, Pal."

Security did turn up pronto and on request took us to their spy room or whatever it's called. There were dozens of TV monitors with security staff staring at them and zooming in and out.

"Okay Eddy, about what time did you spot this intense woman having an intense encounter with your equally intense victim?" The cop asked.

"My victim? Keep accusing me like that and I'm outa here." I'm nearly yelling. "You can solve your own bloody case."

Sergeant Plod rolled his eyes and said to my lawyer. "Explain the facts to your boy, Al."

"Shut up Eddy. You're not going anywhere." Al told me. "Now have a guess where and when all this intensity took place."

"Dunno. Maybe six-thirty at the main bar on the gaming floor."

Sergeant Bloody-Rude-Plod nodded at the security chief who had a bloke set up a particular monitor at the time and place and fast forwarded it.

At a guess, I'd say the camera was mounted about seven feet from the floor, behind the bar to watch the drinkers and everybody in the background..I stared at it then I saw the rear of Anna, those bare shoulders and those narrow little black straps. "Slow down," I said. It was about double speed.

Then we all saw the intense woman float in and talk to Anna. They appeared to be arguing, we could see their upper arms moving but unfortunately, the action, the hands, were lower than the bar.

"In my professional opinion," Sergeant Know-it-all said, "we are witnessing the sale of drugs and they're arguing over the price."

"Well done, Sergeant," I said.

"It's what we senior police do." The sergeant said modestly.

"Shut up, Eddy," my lawyer told me.

We watched Miss Intensity march off, Anna sat for a minute, stood, hung her jacket over her stool and disappeared. The security bloke switched from camera to camera and tracked her to the ladies.

He waited and a few minutes later tracked her back to her stool.

"Fast forward it, Pal." My favourite cop said. And sure enough Mister Cool hove into view, exuding charm and marched Anna off with our jug of vodka and ice cubes.

"There you go, Sergeant, just like Eddy told you." My lawyer said. "What more do you need?"

"Well the deceased is not a local. Where did she come from? How did she get here? And that's just for a start."

I couldn't help myself. "I bet you didn't think to check the airports?"

"We did, Mr Smart-alec and the coach terminals. No sign of her."

"It's simple, Sergeant." I was tempted to call him Simple Sergeant but my self-preservation instinct kicked in. "She either hitched a lift, teleported herself through time and space or - here's a thought- maybe she drove a car here."

"No car keys, no sign of a licence, we even had security open her personal room-safe." Our sergeant said. "There was a truck-load of cash. but as I said, no documents or car keys.

"Al," he said to my lawyer, "is it possible that your client took the victim's car keys and drove off with her car?"

Al and I stared at each other. I kept my mouth shut and gave Al a chance." Did you think to check with the car-parking valet? The owners often leave their keys with them."

The security bloke was quite engaged by this time. Maybe he was disturbed that there was a death in his domain and under his watch. Or maybe he was just curious. But he bundled all of us, me'n'Al, our two keystone cops and himself into a service elevator and whizzed us down to the large transit area.

"Jimmy," he addressed one of the valet parkers, "Yo'all gotta unaccounted ve-hicle down thar?" He said pointing at the maw of a cavernous underground carpark.

"Yassar, Mista James, ah surely do." He said and lifted the lid of a stand-up desk revealing a few sets of keys. "Som dem peoples jest too im-pace-ient to play d'tables to stand waitin' for their keys."

Our sergeant cop instructed the security bloke to requisition the keys. "Onwards gentlemen." He said and we all walked down the ramp and into the first level of the parking area. "Goddam, how many levels are we gonna have to search through."

Four levels the security bloke told us. "But just click the remotes and the cars will blink back at you."

"I know that." Our clever sergeant snapped.

"Sergeant, do you think we may find another dead body down here?" I asked.

The parking valet had given the cops four sets of keys and we found the corresponding cars on the first level. Sergeant Plod and his stalwart minion gave the cars a cursory search and found one of them had a false floor in the boot - sorry, in Americanese - trunk. It looked good, A neat fit with a grey carpet fitted and glued to a piece of multi-ply. The cops lifted the false floor at the rear edge revealing rows of flat plastic bags filled with white powder. Other bags were filled with money.

"Cocaine, nothing surer," The sergeant copper said."And I'd say the money's from the sales."

"Sarge," I asked, "why would she buy cocaine from that woman in the casino if her car's awash with it?"

"Please note Eddy, the bags are sealed and they would hold exactly one key - sorry, one kilogram." Our sergeant told me. "If the deceased tried to steal a little snifter from one of these one-key bags - and it would be obvious, they would fit her with concrete boots and take her swimming.

The car had a pistol hidden up under the driver's seat. Under the passenger's seat, a hidden compartment held a wad of cash and a handful of driver's licences, passports and other personal documents in different names. Anna's photo was displayed on all of them.

"Sarge," the beta cop said, "the deceased is a drug mule and a quantity like this woulda come across our state border, ay?"


"Interstate means federal which means you gotta get the FBI involved."

"Yeah." The Sarge agreed.

"So phone them and we'll all go home."

"Nearly all." Sarge replied. "You'll have to stay and guard this associated crime scene Constable James, until I can get you relieved. Now everybody else out."

I expected our sergeant to explode in flames from his offsider's murderous glare.


Our lawyer drove us to Edna's home and as we exited his car Edna asked him if the bad guys were likely to hunt Eddy down.

"Well Edna, if they were rational they would realise that Eddy's - what did you call it - oh yes - a dalliance with the attractive Anna was not a planned strike against them, just two lonely souls dallying."

"Lonely souls dallying? Pulease!" Edna said. "By the look of that flabby femme fatale, they would have been rutting like beasts of the field."

"Edna!" I said, shocked. Was she jealous because she's sick and wasting away, I wondered?

"Just remember, I saw the security video of her flouncing off to the lady's," Edna said, "and she wasn't that attractive."

"Did you have your specs on Edna?" Al asked her. "God had bestowed a bountiful beauty on her."

"That was just surplus fat." My skinny Edna snapped.

"That's the truth, Edna, but didn't God arrange it beautifully?"

"If God could create such a beautiful woman, why couldn't He create all of 'em as bountiful beauties?" I asked. "Was He runnin' outa steam on His sixth day?"

"Again, I saw the security video," Edna said, "as she walked to the restrooms her bountifulness was wobbling."

"Her bountifulness was undulating rhythmically." Al corrected Edna.

"Excellent summation, my learned associate!" I agreed. "What's more, she had a nice personality." They both stared at me and Al said."I would forego the vow of chastity that my wife has imposed on me for just one night enjoying that lady's nice personality."

"Lemme tell yer Al, at one stage I was awash in rivulets of perfumed perspiration as she was smothering me to death. I was dying and I didn't care!"

Edna had her lips pursed in that universal female look of disapproval.

We invited Al to come in for coffee and a situation review.

"I was speaking to our favourite cop, Sergeant Amos Jones," Our lawyer said. "He told me that Vegas was crawling with FBI agents interviewing everybody, probably even each other. He reckons that the Russian mafia would have gotten the hell outa Dodge and started looking elsewhere to extend their empire. So Amos and I are sure that they're not interested in Eddy. Besides the Medical Examiner's report was quite clear that the poor deceased Anna killed herself with alcohol and a drug overdose. The report also stated that she had underlying health issues."

"She did indeed! She was too fat!"

I stood there remembering, smiling. Then all of a sudden I realised I should think of something else before I embarrassed everybody. "One potato, two potato, three --- "

"Perverts! I'm surrounded by perverts." Edna was staring at me when she snapped. "Get in the car you two. Now!"

"Okay, Edna. Where are we going?" Al asked.

"To the veterinary surgery to get Eddy fixed."


"Your shyster phoned," Edna said as I came out of the shower. "He said it's all clear for you. The FBI have taken the case over and are hunting the big shot criminals interstate. So-o, shall we go out to dinner tonight and celebrate your righteousness?"

"Let's go, Edna, there are none more righteous."

We were enjoying morning tea on Edna's little porch just before the heat became obsessive."So Eddy, have you learnt your lesson? About women, I mean?"

"Until the next time, I'm like an old warhorse. When the trumpets sound, I'll probably charge back into the fray," I told her.

"That's not a good analogy, Eddy. But I know what you mean. You told me before that you rarely have a regular lady friend. Are you looking forward to growing old and lonely? Is there anyone at the moment that could be a likely contender?"

"Nah," I thought for a moment. "Well there's Lucy at work. She's nice. I like her but - I dunno."

"Tell me about Lucy," Edna demanded, "and I'll tell you if she's a likely contender."

"Well, she's smallish, ordinary-looking - wouldn't frighten the horses, you know."

"Go on," Edna demanded.

"She's divorced. Her hubby gambled everything but the house away. Lucy and her mum bought the house off him. They rented it out and Lucy moved in with her mum. What else? Oh yeah, she cooks cakes and brings me in some on Mondays.

"She brings you cakes? Eddy, you're halfway there."

"She's no sex-bomb goddess, I think mousey when I look at her." I couldn't help myself. "She's not big and beautiful like Anna."

"She's not a junky crim like Anna." Edna snapped.

"I know," I sighed wistfully. "And she wears big reading specs and stares at me. That's a bit off-putting."

"Eddy, the poor thing is just trying to focus," Edna said. "Have you offered to take her out?"

"Nah. Oh, our office group all go for a counter-lunch on Fridays. She'll tizz up a bit for that. A bit of lippy and a pair of heels."

"Does she mix and mingle at the pub?" Edna asked.

"Yeah, I s'pose so," I replied. "I bet Anna was a great mingler."

"Concentrate, Eddy! We're talking about Lucy. Cute little Lucy, not that sex-crazed flab-fest, Anna.

"Edna, you should really be speaking well of the dead."

"You're right. Did Lucy talk to you at the pub counter lunch sessions?"

"A bit but I'm usually talkin' Saturday's footy with the blokes."

"I'm seeing a pattern here, Eddy. Do you have lunch together?"

"No, she sits at her desk, I sit in the park, depending on the weather, eatin' my sanger and readin' the paper."

"Why don't you ask her to join you? Or here's a daring thought. You have lunch with her at her desk."

"Because --- um --- Do you think? You know she once asked me to dinner at her mum's house. A full-on lamb roast, she said and I love roasts."


"I couldn't go. The mighty Swannies were playing Collingwood. At home! And I had tickets!"

"Yes Eddy, I definitely see a pattern here -Of idiocy! If I had more strength I would beat you to death with my walking stick!"

"I agree. A missed opportunity, Edna. Come to think of it, I rather miss her. Did I tell you she was smart. She does a lot of spreadsheets and crap like that."

"Where's your phone, idiot?"

"Here." I pulled it out of my pocket."

"Text her right this minute. Tell her you're missing her." Edna demanded. "Beg her to take whatever holidays she has and that you'll fly her to Hawaii, meet her there and then on to Vegas. And tell her you're paying."

"But I'm not. I can't afford that."

"You are paying. via me. It's coming out of your inheritance. Who knows we might have a Vegas wedding on our hands. With Elvis presiding."


That evening Edna and I went to her favourite Italian restaurant that strangely had nothing to do with casinos. Earlier, Edna had dragged me out shopping and bought me a pair of formal-type slacks and a shirt. She insisted on me having a pair of leather, lace-up shoes and a pair of black socks. I put up a fight because the footy season's still on and I always wear me Mighty Sydney Swannies socks until the end of the season. "You're not going to a football match tonight," she said.

"Eddy, you're like a child!"

That was bad enough but then she dragged me into a woman's shop and bought herself a long dark blue dress. "It's the first dress I've bought in years." She told me. I think the smarmy assistant thought that Edna and I were a number and that I'm her gigolo. Oh well, that's Vegas for you.

The restaurant was just off the Strip and around a corner. "'Il Torre', The Tower is a well-kept secret from tourists, Eddy," Edna said. "We locals keep them busy. They have the world's best veal."

And she was right! Not only was the meal great but they had a three-piece band playing quiet dinner music. Later a couple of the waiters sang. One did a Dean Martin take off and the other

wandered from table to table encouraging the people to sing pops with him. They even had a little dance floor.

I checked my phone. "Lucy still hasn't replied," I told Edna.

"Eddy, it's only been about eight hours since you sprung the invitation on her. She's probably in shock." Edna said. "I'm guessing she may not want to seem too eager. A lady likes to be a little coy.

I'd give her two days to discuss it with her mum and then write her off."

Back to me tucker and chatting to Edna. She'd had an interesting life. But some of the things she told me didn't seem to gel. When I queried them she'd brush over them with a laugh or change the subject. "My goodness, look at that couple, the lady in the red dress is nearly doing the tango."

I had no urge to dance unless it was in pursuit of a grand seduction. you can achieve the same result by buying a glass of wine for your seductee. Besides, I wanted to savour the peace of mind of a free man who's not being pestered by cops or even executed. "Want another celebratory drink, Edna?"

"No thanks. Eddy, will you dance with me, please? You'll have to do most of the dancing and probably hold me up. I'll try to stagger in time to the music."

"Definitely not. That'd be a waste of time" I told her. "Dancing's a pre-mating ritual and we're not gunna mate. Mind you, you look alright - for an old duck" And she did too. I noticed she had put on

some make-up and her dress looked pretty damn smart.

"Easy Eddy, you'll have me blushing in a minute. Now about that dance - I'm about to call a waiter over and tell him that you're touching me inappropriately."

"Wanna dance, Edna?"

I was tempted to tell her that she was setting herself up for embarrassment, a fall, and disappointment. But I didn't, I just said. "I hope they don't play a tango." Edna left her cane at the table and I helped her out onto the dance floor. The band was playing a slow waltz. I was taking small steps and most of Edna's slight weight. She was shaking a bit, I don't know if it was her disability, nerves or both but we completed a lap of the floor in good order. The music stopped. I said. "Thank you, Edna, that was nice." I leaned over and kissed her on the head. I heard clapping. People were giving us a round of applause. Edna was tearing up and I was embarrassed. We struggled to our table and sat. I'd guess that we were both exhausted.

The maitre d' came to our table with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. As he poured he said, "Madama Edna you were, - No, you are, magnifico. Will you save me the last dance of the evening?"

"Lorenzo, my dear friend, it would be an honour." Edna told him. We sipped our champagne and Edna told me that it was the first time that she had danced in ten years. "This was very special for

me. Thank you, Eddy."

"Ya still got it, Edna." I told her.

An hour or so later as we were getting ready to leave, Edna waved to Lorenzo. "Do you remember

our song, my love?"

"Si amore mio. It would have been the waltz at our wedding." He nodded to the band, helped Edna to her feet and sang some shmaltzy thing. Lorenzo encouraged Edna to sing counterpoint to his baritone. I didn't notice for a moment that they weren't dancing, just holding each other.

A little later I had to nearly drag her out to our waiting cab. "You're a shameless flirt, Edna." I scolded.

"Under the circumstances --- Absolutely!" She agreed. "You know Eddy, I'd give that man my firstborn! That's if I had one. Call him out here, I'll offer to have his firstborn."

"Just a tad trollopy Edna."

We were laughing and recapping a great night as the cab drew close to Edna's village.

"Hang on, incoming text. Yeah, read that! 'OK XX'." I said. "Lucy's coming."

"That's great Eddy. Reply 'Hurry' and two Xs.

"Oh look. That's not great!" Edna said. "Our boom gate's up, the guard room's dark and our security bloke's absent."

"He's probably stepped around the back to water the petunias," I suggested.

"Huh." She agreed. and then, "No, Hank's very gung-ho. Something's wrong!"


"He'll be right, Edna." I said. "Get us inside, I need a nightcap after all that excitement."

Edna was fiddling with the key, I was tempted to offer to help but no. She liked to do as much as she could, while she could before the Parkinson's caught up with her.

She entered, turned on the light and screamed. "Run Eddy." I couldn't, somebody had come around the side of the unit and stuck something in my back.

"In ya go, Lover Boy." He gave me a push that sent me hurtling across the living room floor and landing on top of someone on the sofa.

"Oof," the someone said. "Neddy, may I advise you that it would be in our mutual best interests if you got offen me."

The bloke that shoved me had closed the door behind me thus limiting my escape plans to - um- bugger all.

Edna recovered first. "I don't know what this is all about but before you tell me, I've got to sit down before I fall down." She used her walking stick to hobble over to an upright chair in the corner, turned around and sat with ladylike dignity. Legs together, purse on her lap and a severe

look on her face. "Now tell me, how did you get into my unit and what's all this rudeness about?"

I levered myself off the bloke on the sofa. He was a broken -nosed, heavy-looking lump in an ill-fitting grey, pinstriped suit and a lairy tie, complete with a shortened shotgun laid across his lap.

He told us, "it would appear that you neglected to lock your kitchen window, and in these times of galloping wickedness, a fatal oversight, Madam.

"But that's a mere detail. It would seem that one recent day a putz by d'name of Neddy comes to town and disrupts d'smooth operation of our product distribution. This is regarded as a very bad thing to do in d'circles in which I circulate. For which steps must be taken. D'major subject we have to address is as follows: my organisation has lost a car full of product and cash. It would seem to be Neddy's fault. I would give you a chance to find it or replace it but my information is: you can't.

"Sadly, my manager is greatly disturbed, as you can imagine and demanding retribution. A pound or two of flesh as it were. And to exacerbate d'situation, you have heaped shame on my aforementioned manager by defiling and killing his one true love, Anna. These are very bad things to have done to him. He is wracked with sorrow and of course: vengeance."

"Mate," I implored him, "the lady in question was a willing party to the defiling mentioned and OD'd herself, without my help or approval. You can assure your manager that I'm not responsible

for her sad passing or the loss of her car full of whatever." I was going to tell him that I found her a charming lady and drinking companion and she died happy after a jolly good romp but discretion prevented me.

"Sadly, the thing is Neddy --- "

I interrupted him. "Hah! There it is! You have the wrong bloke. I'm Eddy."

"Near enough. You'll have to do," said Sadly.

"Do what?" I asked with trepidation.

"As I was saying, - sadly it appears that vengeance must be served on you and d'witnessing old dear, over there ---" He said, waving a hand in the direction of Edna.

Who interrupted. "Old? How rude! You haven't even introduced yourself and I was just going to offer you a nice cup of tea."

The thug continued, "Madam, unfortunately it would seem that you have a penchant for interrupting me. This is indeed a perilous thing to do. But I apologise for not introducing myself, d'remissness is mine. In my organisation I'm known as Sadly. It appears I have d'habit of addressing people I deal with as such: 'Sadly your demise is eminent and or painful.' And sadly, in your case we'll take you out into d'surrounding desert, hand Neddy a shovel and he can dig a double grave."

Thug, the lesser, crossed the room, sat beside his mate and giggled. "Yay Neddy, a double grave."

I'm quite agitated. In a few moments I've gone from a potential wealthy heir to a potential corpse.

Look chaps," I said preparatory to explaining why it would be a bad move to kill us when Edna

interrupted. "What did you do to my friend Hank? Our security bloke?"

"My business associate here helped d'old boy graduate to early glory as he will, you. Quickly and

mercifully. You should be thankful." Sadly said. "Would you not agree wholeheartedly, Igor?"

Sadly's associate looked over at him admiringly and nodded. "Indeed, I am Igor The Merciful."

A muted gunshot rang out frightening the hell out of me. Edna's gaping purse had flown off her lap leaving her holding a gun in both hands. She had gut-shot the lesser of the two evil thugs who weren't paying attention. He dropped his gun, grabbed his bleeding stomach and groaned piteously.

Edna quickly turned her shaking gun on the stunned alpha thug and said. "Oh look, Igor's glory bound, too.

"Now Sadly, be very still and pay attention, I've had to shoot a hole in the bottom of my handbag so I'm not happy. This is only a small gun but the rounds are hollow-points, known as dum-dums" Edna said, sounding like the school teacher she had been. "They hit and spread and do an awful lot of damage to the internal organs. If you look at your friend you will see that he's suffering the agony of the damned. Deservedly so! What I've just done is minced and mixed his vital organs into soup.

"If I were merciful, I would've shot him in the head. But I'm not. Now back to you Sadly. What I want you to do is move very slowly so you don't startle me. Put your hands on your head and

interlace your fingers."

"Really Madam, as a professional let me point out that you are going down a very dangerous path."

"Three, two ---" Edna counted.

He quickly placed his hands on his head and interlaced his fingers.

I think I'm going into shock. "What? Why---"

Eddy, I'll tell you in a moment but first stay out of my line of fire and take Sadly's gun off him then pick up the slowly deceasing Igor's gun too. Well done. Now the reality of the situation is: they were going to kill us." Edna told me, "so the logical step is to pre-empt that move and kill them first."

"Okay, but a gun, Edna? Mind you I'm very glad that you have one. But when and why?"

"In this land of hype and gory it's a self-evident truth that an unaccompanied lady should have a gun" Edna said, "and know how to use it. It came with three free lessons at our local pistol range. And, Eddy, the great state of Nevada allows me to defend my home and loved ones from the ungodly."

"Okay okay, can we call the police now?" I asked.

"Definitely not! These fools killed my friend Hank and I suspect that his elderly and devoted wife - no, widow - will die early of a broken heart.

"Maybe the mob with all their money and a good legal team could spring Sadly and then where would we be?

"A moment." Edna said and addressed the surviving thug, " We were told that the FBI presence would deter your people from bothering us and indeed bothering Las Vegas in general. So why are you here?"

"My manager has taken personal exception at d' egregiousness of Neddy's behaviour. He decided that action must be taken forthrightly!" Sadly told us.

"The other thing," Edna continued, "which I must stress, is the deceased killed herself with alcohol and drugs. And this is important - she had health issues, heart problems stemming from her being overweight. Sadly, she was fat!"

"Madam, d' reprehensibility of that statement brings shame on you." Sadly said forcefully. "To us mere mortal men, she walked in beauty like the --- "

"Enough Sadly!" Edna interrupted him. "How did you find out about us?"

"We have informants everywhere, particularly in d' police force." He boasted.

"Sadly, I'm curious, may I ask you, as a male, do you think the now deceased lady, warranted all this attention?" Edna asked.

"Madam, her dear friend, d' manager of our organisation thought she was an outstanding beauty and ---"

Edna interrupted him sharply. "I didn't think she was an outstanding beauty!"

"Madam, you have interrupted me again. This is a very rude thing to do. But I shall continue in a forgiving manner: Where was I? Oh yes, I personally, would often envision throwing myself, in gentlemanly fashion of course, on d' voluptuity of that goddess and shuttling off my mortal coil thusly.

"And Madam, back to your question re my manager's wrath at Neddy's usurping of the obvious delights of the lady ---"

"The quality of her delights were debatable." Edna interrupted. "But obvious - they certainly were. I'll never understand men." Edna mused. "A portion of pulsating pulchritude and then the blood drains from their brains. But back to business.

"Sadly, here's the fatal flaw in your plan. Have you ever heard of The Despatcher?" Edna asked.

"Of course! He's a highly skilled assassin." Sadly said with an air of reverence. "He is spoken of with much respect within my sphere."

"Rightly so Sadly and you have just met her. " Edna said.

I'm looking, no gaping, at this pair and I'm sure Sadly blanched.

Edna continued. "My friends think I earned my wealth in the computer science world, But not so. I'm a highly paid, and skilled despatcher and I'm about to despatch you and your equally inept friend, Igor. Then I'll wait for Anna's bereft boyfriend.

"Sadly, I obviously can't offer you the voluptuous death that you wished for wallowing on the deceased Anna but I am a compassionate woman so to aid your despatch would you like just a fleeting glimpse of my dainty but adorable boobies?"

"Edna!" I yelled, horrified.

"Oh, look the other way, you prude. I haven't had an opportunity to show 'em off in years." Edna continued pensively. "2010 Mardi Gras in New Orleans was the last time they went public, I think.

"Well, Sadly, a glimpse?"

"Um," Sadly said doubtfully.

"Wrong answer," Edna said indignantly, shot him in the head and then put the still suffering Igor out of his agony - mercifully.

"I'll give our lawyer a call Eddy while you make a nice cup of tea."

I'm staring at Edna. "You're the Despatcher?"

"Of course not." Edna smiled coolly,

What was I thinking of? A little old lady ---

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