Epilogue.

After a thorough medical examination Ed had finally been able to regain his hotel room late that night. Even after having slept for only a few hours he seemed to have well recuperated.

Initially Ironside and his team were supposed to head back to San Francisco in the morning. Unfortunately there was still some unfinished business that had to be taken care of so they had no choice but to delay their departure. Therefore the Chief decided Eve should return alone. "We do not want to give the Commissioner a reason to reproach me my office isn't staffed and fully operational." With these words he had send Eve on her way to the Las Vegas airport and he promised they would be back in San Francisco by late afternoon.

A few minutes before ten o'clock Ed, Mark and the Chief had walked into the headquarters of the Las Vegas police.

Only moments later they were joined in Chief Warren's office by Catherine and Sheila.

Danny hadn't been allowed to leave the hospital. Following Charley's brutal beating and kicking he was diagnosed with a nearly ruptured spleen and severely bruised ribs. The doctors found it wiser to keep him in observation for at least the next forty-eight hours.

Initially the testimony of Sheila and Ironside was supposed to be crucial. Yet to their surprise someone had preceded them. Earlier that morning Toby had already dropped by to make a statement. Having given Mr. Bertini, his boss, a detailed account of everything that had occurred since he had been ordered to tail Catherine, he got the advise to go make a voluntary statement. Just to avoid having the police snoop around to much, Mr. Bertini had heavily insisted on.

If Charley' s colleagues were at first suspicious as to everything Toby had told them their disbelief was totally swept away by what officer Charley Meaks himself had in the meantime and to everyone's stupefaction admitted. He had confessed to be indirectly responsible for the death of no less than six young women over the past five years.

The Chief's and Sheila's story was finally nothing more than the ultimate confirmation of what Charley's deranged mind was capable of.

Once installed in the interrogation room Charley had surprised everyone with his cold, emotionless confession. It rapidly became clear that Charley proved to be unequaled when it came down to psychological intimidation especially when he had in front of him a weak person.

He procured the men interrogating him some cold shivers as he declared,"I didn't leave out any detail when I described to each girl what I had in mind for her. They got so frightened that in their desperate flight to escape me they always encountered death at the end of the road." His eyes had expressed an intense pleasure while he, almost enthusiastically unveiled his modus operandi to the inquisitors "But I never brutalized them physically," he had added laughing, " I just scared the hell out of them," As if he tried to minimize the gravity of his act.

Charley finally divulged how each time he had made sure he was first to arrive on the scene where he so to speak discovered the corpse. Accordingly to what he had previously also told the Chief in the garage he admitted that he had always simply messed up whatever little evidence there was or could have been pointing in his direction.

He proudly told the police inspectors how he had found out that in doing so he could easily hamper what should normally have been a routine investigation. And knowing he was highly estimated within the force, he had never had any difficulty in persuading everyone these girls weren't worth a meticulous, costly investigation. Charley simply portrayed them as the kind of fortune seeking adventurous girls no one would ever miss and he got away with it. So after a short standard routine inquiry the cases were dropped and classified.

However surprisingly enough Charley had categorically denied every responsibility in the death of Betty. She was that girl found in an alley five years ago, brutally massacred with a knife. She was the one who's death Danny so obstinately pinned on Charley.

Danny was right about at least one thing. Meaks was not Charley's name but his mother's maiden name. He was a Gandolfi and he knew by experience that people always automatically tended to link him to the infamous Gandolfi clan. So when he entered the Las Vegas force he chose to use his mother's name.

All the rest Danny apparently got from hear-say as it all proved to be incorrect.

It was way over six pm when Eve finally heard the elevator come up.

"Finally! There you are!" Eve sighed relieved although surprised to see the Chief enter the office all alone.

"From the tone of your voice I suspect the Commissioner is all impatience." Ironside said as he eased his chair down the ramp.

"Commissioner Randall has phoned at least four times in the last couple of hours. And you better be warned …, he didn't sound very happy."

"Meaning it won't be long now before he shows up." the Chief remarked while he picked up a few letters on the table and started browsing them.

"How's Ed Chief? And …, where's Mark?" Eve kept on looking towards the entrance; awaiting.

"Ed is as fine as can be expected. He'll suffer some headache for a few days. And Mark is bringing up the luggage. They should be here any second."

"Tell me Chief. How did it go? I guess the officer gave everyone a hard time, denying the accusations."

"No, Eve. In fact they didn't need our presence as it turned out that the man himself had already admitted everything and they also had the testimony of our nameless savior, alias Catherine's, for one day, bodyguard."

"Speaking about Catherine. You can tell ..."

Eve was interrupted as the office door swung open and they heard Ed's jovial invitation, "After you Commissioner."

"Ed! Mark!" Randall greeted them and then with a swift pace walked straight to the table where Ironside sat. The Chief slowly turned his chair away from the table to greet the Commissioner.

"You look great Bob. Well rested. Amazing what a few days off can accomplish." The Commissioner looked the Chief in the eyes.

"What's that supposed to mean Dennis? Do I hear some kind of reproach?"

"Oh don't act so surprised. You know very well what I'm talking about." Randall snorted.

Ed, Eve and Mark threw each other a meaningful look.

"I'm profoundly disappointed in you Bob. Your trip cost money to this department, and was supposed to be a learning school. Remember! To get acquainted with new technologies and research techniques to track down the criminals more effectively and at lesser expense. Those where your words Bob. Correct me if I'm wrong."

The Commissioner was turning red. "I got superintendent Bishop, co -organizer of the conference on the line. He said you gratified them with a glimpse of you on the first day. Someone on the organizing staff then saw you flee like thief's at coffee break. And that was it. Good God Bob …, where were you? What were you doing?"

Ironside sat back in his chair attentively listening. He didn't say a word.

Randall was expecting a virulent reaction. "Well? I do not hear you refute it. Not even a little grumbling."

"Now Dennis, aren't you exaggerating a little?" Ironside said meaningfully holding up his thumb and index finger.

"I'm afraid I don't appreciate your humor. You've already accustomed me to numerous excesses in the past but I really would like to hear what you have to say for your defense this time."

"Defense! My defense is that a very dangerous criminal now is behind bars. Is that reason enough for you to excuse me for not having attended your precious conference?"

"But …, but ..." Randall stuttered, " you had no authority over there."

"That's right. But no one can blame me for clinging to life. And if on top of that it allowed to elucidate a series of unsolved murders who do you think will hold that against me? "

"Your life was threatened?" Startled, Randall looked at the Chief.

"Mine and that of two other young people. It …, it was a close call Dennis." Ironside punctuated with appropriate drama.

Randall's attitude changed within the second. "You didn't get hurt did you?" Inquiringly he looked the Chief up and down. "Oh now I get it. That's why you couldn't be back here as scheduled. You needed some medical attendance. Tell me Bob. You're sure everything is alright." Randall's concern was touching.

A twinkle appeared in Ironside's eyes as he listened to Dennis. Sure he loved to tease his friend but the genuine solicitude of the Commissioner didn't leave him indifferent either even if he would never admit it.

"Hold it Dennis. Hold it. I'm perfectly alright. But Ed had to go the hospital. He got brutally knocked over the head."

"Twice." Ed added emphasizing it by rubbing his hand over the sore back of his head.

Perplexed the Commissioner looked at Ironside and then at Ed and back at the Chief. Realizing he had let himself being carried away maybe a little to easily Randall adjusted his glasses and shook his head in unbelief. "You're absolutely incorrigible Bob. And how come I have not been informed about all this."

"That's pretty simple to explain if you ask me"

"Simple! What are you getting at? One of your tricks again I presume."

"I wouldn't dare." Ironside replied as if offended by this assumption. "But this one Dennis I'm sure you've heard it before... that uh …, very famous saying." The Chief paused and looked at his friends who looked back at him trying hard not to smile. They were on the same wavelength and knew the Commissioner had it coming.

"Oh..., for heaven's sake Bob, out with it!"

Ironside nonchalantly again picked up some papers and seemingly started studying them. After a few seconds he lowered the documents, looked up at a dumbfounded Commissioner still awaiting an answer, and stated flatly, "Dennis …, haven't you ever heard? What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. That should ring a bell."

The Chief then turned to Eve and said with a smile, "And Eve …, this goes for you too regarding Catherine."

The end.

So far for this story that I hope has pleased some. A sincere thank you to those who left a comment. It's always encouraging and a real boost to continue. And Carol, my very dear beta ... you're not yet finished with me ;-) There's more to come ...