Crimes Past(14)

By: Lauren Carr

“A bottle of champagne was given as a complimentary gift with the honeymoon suite,” Mac said. “The hotel locked up their alcohol in a special wine locker. The system had been set up to prevent employees from stealing booze. It works the same way it does at the Spencer Inn. Only a kitchen manager or wine steward, using his or her key card, can enter the locker. They scan the bottle’s bar code to check it out before leaving the locker. If they’re removing a case, like for the bar in the lounge, then they’ll scan the case code. Ideally, the hotel inventory knows precisely which employee has checked out the bottle and where it is going.”

“That system must have proved helpful in tracking down where that bottle at the crime scene came from,” Bogie said.

Mac shook his head. “On the night of the murder, a wine steward’s key card had been used to check out a bottle of De Margerie Grand Cru Brut.”

“That’s the same brand of champagne found in the victim’s ice bucket,” David said.

“However, that wine steward had a solid alibi for when the champagne left the wine locker and the murders. He was serving some highprofile guests at a private party in another suite. He had twenty witnesses to verify that he was not even on that floor of the hotel when his key card had been used.”

“Did he have his keycard on him?” David asked.

Mac confirmed that he did, to which Bogie replied, “The killer must have stolen it and maybe slipped it back into his pocket.”

“The wine steward swore he had it on him the whole time,” Mac said. “He had used it for the wine for the private event twelve minutes before the victims’ complimentary bottle was checked out.”

“The killer was sophisticated enough to either copy the wine steward’s key card or hack into the system. They used the champagne as a ruse to enter the bridal suite,” David said.

“It gets better.” Stepping up to the board, Mac pointed at the plastic ice bucket. “This bottle of champagne is dated 1988.” He turned to them. “The bottle that had been checked out of the wine locker and designated for the honeymoon suite was 1986. The WillardIntercontinental did not carry 1988 in their inventory.”

“Then the bottle found at the crime scene was not the same bottle stolen from the wine locker,” Bogie said.

“Do you think?” David turned back to Mac. “Why are we even talking about this? It’s a false lead. Most likely, a hotel employee hacked into the system to steal a bottle of champagne and this has nothing to do with the murders.”

“The hotel’s system makes you indicate where the bottle is going,” Mac said. “There’s a code if it is going to the lounge or the restaurant or an event. If it’s going to a room, then you put in the room number. Whoever took that champagne put in the honeymoon suite. I can’t believe that some random sticky finger employee happened to steal a bottle of De Margerie Grand Cru Brut and said it was going to the honeymoon suite on the same night that our victims were murdered and a bottle of De Margerie Grand Cru Brut is left at the scene.”

“But it’s not the same bottle stolen from the wine locker,” Bogie said. “I don’t believe in coincidences either, but since it’s not the same bottle ...” He shrugged his shoulders.

“I can’t not believe there’s a connection here someplace,” Mac said. “The hotel did have De Margerie Grand Cru Brut 1988 listed on their wine list. It was a typo. They meant 1986. I think our killer bought the bottle at a local wine shop, paid cash so we couldn’t trace it, and then used the bottle to gain access to the room.” He pointed at the ice bucket. “This is the standard ice bucket that comes with every room. If the wine steward had delivered the champagne, it would have been in a real cast iron ice bucket.”

“Wouldn’t two detectives have noticed that when the guy came into the room with the plastic bucket?” Bogie asked.

“Yes,” Mac said. “That’s one of the reasons I believe our victims not only knew their killer but was friendly with him or her. They not only let their killer into the room but drank with him or her.”