Detective Sherry West pushed her way through the crowded hotel lobby and into an elevator. At the tenth floor she found a forensics crew already at work.
"What have we got here?" she asked Officer Kaley.
"Victim is one Jack Watkins," Kaley said. "He and his wife and another couple are here for a week's vacation."
"I need names," West said.
"Wife's name is Ella. The other couple is Terry and Cindy Jones."
West jotted the names into a small notebook. "Okay. Now, what happened?"
"The two couples were in the casino gambling. They had plans to eat at one of the city's most exclusive restaurants. Very classy place. Anyhow, Watkins left the casino first to come up here to shower, shave, and dress. The others came up later. When they were dressed and ready to go out, Watkins hadn't come out of his room yet. That's when Mr. Jones came in here and found the body."
"Didn't Mrs. Watkins see her husband when she came up here to dress?" West asked.
"Mr. Watkins was a snorer. His wife couldn't sleep in the same room with him-- even at home. They had separate suites here, so she didn't know anything was wrong until Jones told her."
Sherry West shook her head.
"How did Watkins die?" she asked.
"He was shot with his own gun," Kaley said. "He takes it with him all the time for protection. He's a jeweler and often carries a lot of gems when he's working. I guess it worked against him this time.
"He was shot in the heart at close range. There was quite a bit of blood, as you'll soon see. The medical examiner says with that kind of wound Watkins may have lived for ten or fifteen seconds, but not much longer."
Kaley ushered Detective West into the bedroom of the late Jack Watkins' hotel suite. Several policemen were combing the room for clues. One of them approached West.
"We found something interesting here. As you'll notice, this room has a fireplace. The hotel doesn't really expect the guests to use it, but it is a working fireplace. Someone DID use this one, though, and not too long ago. We found this in it."
With that the officer held out an evidence bag in which he had gathered some samples of ashes. West noticed the ashes had a peculiar texture-- it wasn't the type of ash left by wood or paper.
In another evidence bag were seven melted pieces of plastic and metal. Along with them was a charred piece of metal that appeared to be some sort of clip.
"Have you searched this room completely?" West asked.
"Yes. Here's what we found." Kaley handed a list to the detective.
West read, "Five undershirts, five pair of undershorts, three pairs of brown socks, two pairs of blue socks, two blue dress shirts, three sport shirts, two pull-overs, six pair of slacks: two brown, two blue, and two black, along with a black belt, six ties-- all in the current style and all different colors to match the shirts and slacks, two sport jackets-- one brown and one blue, a pair of brown shoes, one pair of walking shoes, an electric razor, pre-shave and after shave, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a pair of walking shorts, pajamas, seven handkerchiefs."
"Is that it?" she asked.
"We found the usual things on the body," Kaley said. "You know, wallet, change, keys-- things like that. You ready to view the body now?"
"I think so," West said as she moved toward the bed.
Jack Watkins' body lay on the floor near the bed. A fairly large man, he was face down with his right hand outstretched and his left hand tucked under him. A large pool of blood spread out from under the body.
Watkins was in his underwear and slippers. His right hand was coated with blood.
"Looks like he tried to wipe the blood off his hand before he died," West said with a frown. Then she turned her attention to Watkins' bed.
Neatly laid out on it were a pair of tuxedo pants, a tuxedo jacket, and a red cummerbun. Next to the pants was a pair of black socks. At the foot of the bed was a pair of black shoes.
"Looks like he never did get dressed for that dinner," West said. "I'd like to speak to the others in the party. Where are they?"
"Next door in the wife's suite," Kaley said.
West went to Mrs. Watkins' suite where three people sat; all were pale and nervous. The woman who was introduced as Mrs. Watkins had obviously been crying. She wore a long yellow evening gown with shoes and purse to match. She was a short woman.
"I know what you're going to say," she sobbed. "You're going to say I shot Jack because I hated his philandering. But that's not true. So what if he had affairs? He loved only me."
West's eyebrows went up at this remark and she turned to Terry Jones, a once-handsome man who was slowly showing the effects of his age. Jones was dressed in a tuxedo, white shirt, and black bow tie.
"She's obviously upset," Jones said of Mrs. Watkins. "Jack really was devoted to her, even if he did fool around. We were partners, you know, and he confided in me."
"Partners?" West said. "Does this mean you'll take over the entire business now?"
"Well, yes, but..." Jones began but never finished.
"And how about you?" West asked Cindy Jones, a tall, graceful woman dressed in a red gown. "You're very beautiful, if I may be so bold. Were you one of Mr. Watkins' affairs?"
"Good heavens, no!" Mrs. Jones said. "Not that he didn't try. Oh, I'm sorry, Ella, but the truth is your husband did make several passes at me-- but I never gave in, and nothing ever happened between us."
"If I have the details straight," Detective West said, "Mr. Watkins left your group to go to his room to prepare for dinner while you all stayed in the casino. Were you all together?"
"No," Terry Jones said. "I was playing blackjack."
"I was at the slot machines," Ella Watkins said.
"And I was at the roulette wheel," Cindy Jones said.
"I think one of you came to Mr. Watkins' suite earlier than you claim," West said. "You argued with him, lost your temper, and shot him with his own gun. And I think I know which of you it was. As soon as I have some evidence examined, I'm sure I can prove it."