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Spotted Pony Casino Mystery Book 1
BY PATY JAGER
Dela Alvaro is a disabled veteran who grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. When an IED in Iraq ended her military career, she came home to reassess her life and landed a job in security at the Indian run casino on the reservation.
Not even a year into being the assistant to the head of security, Dela is promoted on a trial basis. When one of the casino employees is found stabbed and stuffed in a laundry chute, she knows she can kiss head of security good-bye if she doesn’t find the killer before the media gets hold of the story.
While she is in over her head, she can’t decide if the FBI Special Agent called in to help is a blessing or a curse. It’s a man she ran across in Iraq who overrode her authority. When a second casino employee is killed, Dela has to decide if she can trust the special agent with not only keeping her job but keeping the rest of the casino employees safe.
Rubbing the back of her neck, Dela walked into the security room of the Spotted Pony Casino. Instead of going home at two a.m., as she’d been doing since the head of the casino’s security was arrested for aiding a human trafficking ring, she’d ended up spending all night due to a glitch in a bank of slot machines. After the cashier noticed a machine had paid out more than it took in three times, she’d called Dela.
Not wanting to leave the premises until the technician checked out what had caused the glitch, Dela had grabbed a couple hours of rest in a small room off the security suite.
The ear bud connected to her shoulder mic buzzed and Kay James, one of the surveillance members, voice said, “Something odd is happening on the tenth floor.”
“What do you see?” she asked, heading toward the door.
“Kara is standing just outside the door of the supply room on the tenth floor. She looks like she’s seen something awful. And there is red streaked on the bottom of the wad of sheets in her arms.”
Dela’s gut twisted. That didn’t sound good. “I’ll grab Kenny and head up there. Keep an eye on things.” She hurried across the casino as quickly as her swollen lower limb would allow her to travel. She’d been warned too many hours on her feet would inflame the still tender nub where her leg was amputated.
Shoving the pain and irritation to the back of her mind, she glanced toward the entrance and found Kenny. She motioned to the big Umatilla man who had moved into her second in command since she’d become the head of security.
He fell in step with her. “What’s up?”
Her phone buzzed. Housekeeping. “Dela,” she answered.
“Kara says there is a body in the laundry chute on ten.” Mrs. Young’s voice faltered as she relayed the message.
“I’m on my way.” She punched the up button on the elevator, ticking off the seconds until the doors opened.
“Did I hear her say a body in the laundry chute?” Kenny asked, following her onto the elevator.
“That’s what she said. From what Kay said, I have a feeling that’s what we’ll find.”
The elevator doors opened. They made a right and a left.
Kara still stood outside the supply room.
“Give me those.” Dela grabbed the sheets, avoiding getting any blood on her gold colored polo shirt and navy slacks. She set them on the housekeeping cart inside the door and walked over to the laundry chute door. The metal panel stood open. She eased her head close enough to see the bottoms of a pair of shoes, small hands, the top of a head and bloody sheets around the body. From the crew cut and loafers she’d say male, but these days, one couldn’t be too sure.
Dela called housekeeping. “Make sure no one on the eleventh and twelfth floor put laundry in the chute.”
“I already called up,” Mrs. Young said.
“Good. Thanks. And call the tribals. We have a homicide.” Dela sighed. “Have someone meet them out front and bring them up the employee elevator, please.” She didn’t need this just as she was trying to convince the casino Board of Trustees she was the right person to replace their discredited head of security. When Godfrey Friday was convicted as an accessory to a human trafficking ring, the board told Dela she had six months to prove she deserved the job. In the meantime, they would either be looking to hire someone to be the head or to take over as the second in command, what she had been to Godfrey.
“Do we pull him out?” Kenny asked.
“No. We need to leave him there until the police arrive.” She turned to Kara. “Do you want to continue working until they arrive and take your statement, or do you want to go to the breakroom and wait?”
“Can I just…just stand here?” The woman’s face had drained of color.
Dela had to remember she was one of a handful of women from the rez who had gone off to war and had seen death up close before. Especially violent death.
“Sure. Do you want Kenny to get you a chair?” As the words came out, Kenny was already headed out of the room to find one.
She hollered after him. “See if you can get a flashlight brought up.” She wanted to know if this was an employee or a guest. A flashlight would be needed to see the man’s face in the dark chute.
While she waited, Dela walked back over to Kara. “Did you see anything when you came up and grabbed your cart?”
The woman, nearly ten years younger than Dela shook her head. “I came in as usual, turned the light on, loaded my cart, and headed out to clean rooms. I came back to toss the trash and shove the bedding down the chute…” Her lip quivered. “When the bedding wouldn’t go down, I tried shoving it. That’s when I smelled something funny and pulled the sheets out. I looked in and…” She stifled a small cry. “I think I shoved him in farther.”
Dela patted the woman’s shoulder. “That’s okay. He didn’t feel anything.”
Kara stared at her open-mouthed before snapping it shut and saying, “How can you say such a thing. A man is dead.”
“You didn’t make him any deader by shoving on him.”
Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 51 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
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