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'Amused to Death'

the Detective 4

©08 The Media Desk

Some details of this story may upset more sensitive readers. Thank You


      It was a few months after we broke the case called The Water Murders when I got called in on a case that was actually a series of cases, although at the time, nobody knew it.
      I had known about a mysterious death and a couple of serious injuries at the amusement park in town for some time. But while the incidents had been unusual, and the explanations the various authorities involved had come up with had been odd, they were plausible. In some cases they were a trifle far fetched, but they were plausible.

      With this one there was no doubt, it had been murder, but exactly who did it and why remained to be determined, and solving it wasn't going to be easy.
      A worker setting up a stunt show had been blown to bits by the special effects cannon he had been loading with flash powder. He had been installing the 'flash-bang' charge when the cannon actually fired. It had already been loaded with several ounces of gun powder of the type used in muzzle-loader hunting rifles, and somebody had simply pushed the button backstage for it to fire while the worker was loading it.
      The explosion and resulting fire had obliterated any physical evidence such as fingerprints on the stage gun itself, as the prop gun was very nearly destroyed, as well as the fire extinguishers the rest of the crew had used to put out the resulting fire. The control panel backstage had fingerprints from nearly everybody that had ever worked for the theater on it, and the button itself had been pushed with a cleaning rag.
      Of course nobody saw anything and the security tape of the backstage area was so grainy and out of focus that everybody from Quasimodo to the Queen of England could have walked through and you'd never ID them.
      There were literally a dozen or more possible suspects. The theater had been a hive of activity all that day as well as the night before. There had also been strong words and bruised feelings between almost everybody in the place during the run of the current show, and the last show had ended badly when half the cast and crew tried to have the other half fired. What was worse was that the special effects tech that had been killed had been playing both sides of an ongoing effort by a union to organize the entertainment workers at the park, which took the list of suspects out of the theater and into the park itself.
      The investigator assigned to the case asked me to come out and see if I could come up with anything. That 'anything' included a halfway solid lead as to who loaded the cannon with the real stuff instead of the flash powder.
      I agreed and drove out to the park and met Paul at the side entrance of the theater.
      "I'm not sure if I'll be any help." I said. "But I'll do my best."
      "Isn't that all we do? Make an effort and hope to get lucky?" Paul answered.
      "Yes sir."

      Paul and I were still looking over the scene and examining the other prop cannon when we got another call.
      One of the high divers at the water stunt show across the park had been seriously injured when something went wrong with his show.
      We walked as quickly as we could to the giant pool.
      They were just putting the diver into the ambulance when we got there. The paramedics were going to take him by ambulance out to the parking lot where a helicopter was waiting to fly him to the university medical center.
      "He's done the same act a thousand times. We were just rehearsing for tonight's show when it happened." One of the other divers said.

      They had skipped the preliminary stuff and were getting ready to check their timing on their sequential dive where each of the divers jumped off their perches at different times so they all hit the water at once.
      "It's keyed to the music, Rog jumps first, then two beats later I go, then Traci and Jean, and we all break water at the same time and come up together. We all jumped, but Rog never came up. I went down and pulled him up, he was out cold."
      We went into the pool area and looked at the diving boards and the pool and met the other divers.
      "Was there anything different about the dives?" I asked him.
      "Well. Nothing really unusual. Just that the regular spotlights that focus on the platforms were on. We never use them for practice, it makes it too hard to see the director." The diver said.
      "There was something else." One of the women divers said. "What you said while we were waiting on the ambulance."
      The diver we had been talking to hesitated, then he nodded. "I touched the bottom this time. I never touch the bottom on the seven."
      "Seven?" I asked.
      "Seven meter platform." He pointed to the middle level stand on the tower.
      "So if you touched it from there." I looked up at the one more than twice its height at the top of the tower.
      "From the twenty. He must have hit it like a rock."

      On a hunch we sent a sample of the water to the lab for analysis.
      What we got back the next day indicated that there was a murderer who had done very well in high school chemistry class on the loose in the park.
      "So what is... whatever that is?" Paul asked the lab tech looking at the first of the nearly unpronounceable words on the report.
      "In water, a viscosity reducer."
      "And sulfamic acid?" I asked.
      "Same thing. It's in a lot of your commercial dishwashing agents to assist in drying."
      "And neither should be in a swimming pool?" Paul asked what I was thinking.
      "No." The tech answered. "Not if it is supposed to have sea salt in it to make the water more dense to decelerate the divers."
      I looked at the report and tried to make sense of the numbers. "Fifteen grams per liter isn't..."
      "No. The pool water had less than half the normal level of salt in it. They make it stronger than sea water. According to the pool manager, they run just over fifty grams, this had been really diluted."

      Later we got word that the diver was undergoing a second emergency surgery and things were touch and go. While they were almost sure that he would pull through because he had been in excellent shape, although his diving days were over as they were waiting to see how much paralysis there would be.
      For now, he was still in an induced coma.

      After the Sun Club and its web of intrigue I had come to be a great believer in the use of actual diagrams of victims and suspects and anything they may have in common. So back at my office I began drawing out what we had, and leaving large blanks where we had nothing.
      And then we both remembered that there had been other accidents at the park in the last couple of years. So we called the public inspections office that had done the investigations into the other incidents and asked for a copy of the file on the park.
      When we got that information, we began to fill in all sorts of interesting connections on my diagram.

      Roger, the diver, had been on the park's safety committee that had investigated the accident last year that had crippled an electrician who had been working on a roller coaster.
      Alex, the unfortunate cannon loader, had been injured once before when a scaffolding that he had been using to hang lights suddenly came apart. As the injury was minor, both the inspections department and the park had determined that it had probably been due to negligence by those who had assembled the scaffold, but no blame had been assigned, and no charges filed. Alex's broken arm had healed and everything went back to normal.
      Another unusual accident hadn't involved either of them in any way that we could tell had occurred two years ago and was the one previous fatality in the folder.

      It was during the end of season tear down of several of the rides when they put parts that can't be left out all winter into storage and weatherize others. A worker had been up on the center pivot of the giant swing ride when he had suddenly begun shouting and flailing his arms. Then the worker, Mr. Collins, lost his footing and fell.
      Not only did Collins fall, the rope on his safety harness to the ground had failed, and the railing that should have at least provided a handhold had pulled out of the side of the ride's support leg.
      In the coroner's investigation they had quoted one of the man's co-workers as saying that he had just moved to answer his phone for a second.
      A witness halfway across the park said that it had looked like he had been swatting at bees while he was up there just before he fell.

      "Now I've got something." I said.
      Paul looked at me curiously. "Should I be sitting further away from you?"
      "Not yet."

      I pulled the last year's file entry about the electrician again.
      Joe Martin had been up on the roller coaster rewiring the large display sign on top of the first hill when he was suddenly exposed to more than three times the voltage that normally fed the sign.
      His apprentice was on the ground said that he had just stepped away to see why the music in the ride's waiting area had come on when Joe suddenly screamed.
      "Both of their helpers were momentarily distracted." I said. "Just for a second."
      "Yeah. But I don't see how that helps us."
      "They were setups. Just like the pool with the lights. And I'll bet you lunch that whoever had been in the theater before the cannon blew had something similar happen to them."
      Paul thought about it. "I feel like going to the park for another look around."
      "Me too."

      This time of the afternoon the park was open, but it wasn't at all crowded so we were able to move around without drawing too much attention to ourselves.
      We stopped by the swing ride and I took my time and looked it over.
      "He was up there, and his helper would have had to be.... there." I said looking at it and trying to visualize the accident.
      "That's a hell of a fall." Paul said.
      "Yeah but why'd he fall?" I looked at the painted steel structure. "Bees? I don't believe that one."
      "So what was he swatting at?" Paul asked.
      That got me thinking. What had he been swatting at?
      "This is too open. Let's head over there." I nodded to some bushes behind the ride.
      "That's off limits." Paul said. "You first." He said holding the white painted chain still so I could step over it.
      We walked through the bushes and over the narrow gauge train tracks until we were in a position where we had a good view of the top of the swing ride.
      "You've got an idea." Paul said.
      "Yes sir. Let's see what we can see." I said looking at the ground.
      Paul looked as well. But there was nothing to see. The grounds were very well tended and it had been a long time since the accident.
      "I want to get somebody out here with a metal detector anyway."
      "Why metal?"
      "Nothing else would carry that far. I'm betting somebody was playing 'stung by a bee' with a pellet rifle or something, and I'm hoping they dropped some."
      "Sounds good. I'll call them." Paul took out his phone. "Where to now?"
      "Roller coaster."

      When Mr. Martin had been working on the coaster it was being renamed 'the Great Wooden Screamer' from what it had been called from the day the park opened, 'the Great White Coaster', a name based solely on the color of the original paint on the ride's superstructure.
      Somebody somewhere had decided that the forty year old name was insensitive so the park was renaming one of their most popular attractions.
      Martin was up on the top of the first hill reattaching the wiring to the new sign on the summit arch when somehow the cable he was working on had come loose from where it ran into the conduit that led up the side of the trestle and came into direct contact with the four hundred and forty volt supply for the main drive motor that carried the trains up the hill.
      The resulting electric arc had partially melted the wire in the machine shed, as well as having welded Martin's pliers to the box at the base of the sign. The electrocution had severely burned Martin's hands, costing him several fingers, leaving him with partial use of his right hand, and some neurological damage as well. Three days after the accident, the ride re-opened with its new sign and no further incidents.
      We had to show our badges to the ride operator to be allowed to go down the stairs to the machine shed under the track.

      Inside we looked at the wiring for the systems. It took us a minute to identify the cable that ran up to the sign.
      "OK, this is the line that runs out and up." Paul said pointing to a cable stabled to the beams of the shed. "These haven't been touched in years." He pointed to a couple of rusty nails in the staples. "But these are brand new."
      "Done after the accident." I said. Then I tried to measure it out without touching anything. "Even if those were off, how did that line touch anything going to the motor?" I asked pointing from the panel that said 'lights' in hand written marker across the top to either the motor itself or the panel that controlled the juice to it.
      Paul looked back and forth. "Somebody had to do it. Intentionally."
      While we were looking at the panels and trying to come up with an explanation that made sense there was a sequence of warning beeps, then a series of relays clicked and sparked and the motor came on with an impressively deep hum and much clattering of the drive chain through its sprockets.
      We cut that part of our investigation short and hurried outside and shut the shed door behind us with our ears still ringing from the noise.

      Outside we enjoyed the relative quite and the fresher air, then we looked up at the 'Wooden Screamer' sign.
      In a matter of seconds our concentration was interrupted by the screams and shrieks of those on the ride above us as the train went over the top to live up to its billing.
      "They were all high up, except for the cannon." I said trying to think of another commonality. "This one was electricity, the swing was big gears, and gravity, and the pool... the cannon...." I said out loud to help move my own roller coaster of thoughts along.
      "The only thing I've seen in common is the park itself." Paul said.
      "Yeah. I think that's it." I answered. "There's something... Somebody here, that had it in for them."
      "Back to the drawing board?" Paul asked drawing a web of connections in the air.
      "Back to the drawing board." I nodded. "But first I want to stop by the theater again."


      We had gathered information about the park staff, the owners and management, and even the union.
      The final reports on everything from the pool water to the gunpowder in the cannon came back. They were no help. The chemicals were readily available at every home center in the state, and the black powder used could be bought by the pound at almost as many places.
      Our crime scene team had gone over the area behind the swing near the railroad tracks and had come up with a vast collection of bottle tops, foil wrappers, a few coins, and even a small metal statue of a cartoon character. But they had only found two BBs. But as they were near the tracks, there was also the chance that they were ball bearings from the train. The lab was trying to identify them.
      It wasn't the breakthrough I had hoped for.

      Then we found out that the owners of the park had been testing the waters for a buyer for the place for a couple of years. They had not been actively trying to sell, but they had been 'putting out feelers' to see if anybody was interested.
      "That changes things a bit." I said.
      "How so?" Paul asked.
      "You think I'm going to tell you all my secrets?" I asked him.
      "Yeah, so you can retire."
      "Oh. OK." I said and went to the white board where we'd been drawing our picture. There was even a fair approximation of the 'Screamer' to indicate the park itself as an entity in the investigation, I circled the coaster as I began. "Initially any publicity from an accident will actually increase attendance."
      "People are curious, they may have forgotten the park is there, that kind of thing." Paul said.
      "Exactly. But an ongoing series of accidents." I gestured to yesterday's newspaper that mentioned the two accidents on the front page. "Will generate enough bad publicity that it will hurt attendance as people become nervous about going there. Especially when there are other options in the area."
      "I see. Lower gate admissions mean a lower selling price. That hurts the owners, but makes it more attractive to buyers." Paul nodded down below the coaster to the series of names of the family that owned the park.
      "And the union will lose interest. And the vendors drop their prices...." I drew the connections in a different color. Then I wrote the words 'prospective buyers' in that color and connected them to the park and the others. "A ripple effect."
      "So somebody that might be interested in buying the park has been staging the accidents."
      "It's something we need to check out."

      Then it was time to sit and drink coffee and look at the reports and the web of lines and flip through the photographs and even watch a video of the stage production that used the cannon that had exploded. I had pictures of the backup cannon which was all but identical to the other one as well as the specifications from the manufacturer. In the show, the blast from the fake gun was quite impressive as the pirates fired it.
      "Anything?" Paul asked me as the cast of the show took a bow.
      "Yeah." I said. "There's thousands of people that attend that park every day its open." I nodded to the screen as it showed the audience applauding and cheering for the actors. "And they haven't had anything except the usual bumps and bruises reported, and the occasional upset stomach, in five years."
      "I saw that, the last serious accident with a guest was a woman that tried to stand up on the log flume and broke her leg when she fell out of the boat."
      "Yeah, the moral of that story is don't get on the log flume while drunk." I half laughed. "But it just strikes me as odd."
      "Yeah. If their safety practices were that slip-shod, they'd have more and everybody from the state health department to the ride manufacturers would be breathing down their neck." Paul said.
      "Exactly. These are just bad enough... without being too bad."
      "Indeed." I answered.

      We set to interviewing witnesses, and those that knew the various victims, and even rode the 'Screamer' and sat through the show. I didn't ride the giant swing because I didn't think my stomach would appreciate it. However, Paul and one of the uniformed officers that was assisting us did.
      Instead of riding the swing, I went backstage and watched the show again.
      That's when I noticed something odd.
      "You're loading the cannon back here?" I said to the stage hand.
      "Yeah. It's always back here." The guy said.
      "When it exploded it was on stage when Alex was loading it."
      "Yeah. I head about that. Nasty way to go."
      I looked around. The cannon wasn't more than ten feet from the control board. The stage hand had put the lockout cover over the firing button like he was supposed to while he put the new charge in the gun. If somebody was to even try to push the button, the hand would see them and probably kick their butt for it.
      "Odd." I said.
      "Yeah. Excuse me, I've got to reset the gangway." He said and went over to the pirate ship set piece.
      Now I had one more oddity with the accidents.

      "Diving platform lights. Machine shed. Backstage access." I said looking at our web of names. "Who has access to all of them?"
      "It'd be easier to cross out those that don't." Paul said. "Or at least couldn't do it without drawing attention to themselves."
      "OK." I said and began to look at the names and jobs of the people we had listed.
      It wasn't long and it began to make a significant difference to the list.
      "Who's Matt Henry?" Paul asked me.
      "I've heard that name. Hang on." I said and looked through my notes. "He's one of the security guards."
      "With access to everything."
      "Exactly." I said and underlined his name. Then I wrote down the name of two of the other guards.
      "But they're not park employees." Paul said.
      "No, they're... I hate the term, but it is accurate... Rent A Cops." Then I paused. "For M&S Security." I wrote the name down. "And I remember seeing them on..." I started fishing through my memory and then through the papers on the table. "They're owned by Malcom and Smith."
      "One of the outfits the family contacted to buy the park."
      I wrote the company's name on the board. "I think we need to get some more information on the holding company."
      "Let's do it." Paul said.

      Except it wasn't that easy.
      Malcom and Smith was not a public company. In fact, there was a Mr. Malcom and two Smith's, as in a Mr. and a Mrs., and they were all lawyers. Their outside interests were owned by the firm, and the firm was a very private affair.
      "Lawyers." Paul said as he hung up the phone. "They want a warrant before they'll even confirm that M&S Security is one of their companies."
      "But is says 'a Malcom and Smith company' right on the supervisor's business card."
      "I said that. But her answer was to ask 'then why I was asking?'"
      "Let's go back out to the park and see if we can find a guard that likes to talk before we go to a judge."

      Matt Henry was off that day, but one of the others was there, and more than eager to talk about his employers.
      "They run you through the ringer, and make us pass the training course run by the sheriff's office and all, before you've even gotten your first paycheck, but then they act like we're the enemy." One corporal James said without much prompting at all. "They'll assign us out here, then move us halfway across town and all that. I've worked half a shift here, then after lunch had to go downtown. It's stupid. And Yes I am looking for another job. I've even got an application in with your department."
      "Where all do you guys work?" I asked him.
      "Here, out to the subdivision they run, I think they live in there too, their office down by the courthouse. I've even sat in court as a bodyguard for one of their attorneys."
      "Anywhere that's a public place other than here?"
      He stopped to think. "Maxine's." He said.
      "That bar down on Second Street?"
      "They call it an Exclusive Club." James said. "But it's a bar." He chuckled. "They have us stand guard for their after hours parties with politicians and high rollers. People like that."
      "Nice." Paul said.
      "The overtime is nice. That's about it." He held up a finger. "Oh, yeah. We work at an apartment building too. They own most of it or something, so we work there too."
      "How about that?" I said softly.

      On the whole, we had nothing but some coincidences and suppositions and a few remarkable leaps of logic.
      We couldn't actually connect any of the accidents to anybody or anything.
      It could have been just a run of bad luck.
      I didn't believe it, and Paul didn't either, but for right now we couldn't take it any further.
      And we especially couldn't ask for subpoenas and warrants to search a well connected private law firm based on what we had.

      We kept everything we had, and simply waited for the next 'accident', which we were both sure was coming.


      "They were BBs. And not ball bearings." I said to Paul when we got the report back on the items found by the tracks. "And they appear to be the ones used at the two target shooting stands in the park."
      "No help."
      "Well. Maybe." I said. "The target games are nowhere near the swing ride."
      "Maybe somebody had them in their pocket on the train."
      "Maybe. But I think they were what Collins was being stung by."
      "As beat up as his body was after the fall, they didn't look for BB welts." Paul said shaking his head.
      "No. But they also didn't find any bee stings."
      "So what's next?" He asked me.
      "Who's a crack shot with a pellet rifle, knows their chemistry, has access to everything, and can come and go without raising suspicion on our list?"
      "You mean besides the guards that have been through the Sherriff's course?"
      "Let's find out." Paul answered.

      "There's a couple of names missing." Paul said as we went through the list.
      "Who's name?" I asked looking at the board. "Where?"
      "The owners. See. Here. Anna, then Trevor, and Chris. I don't know if Chris is a he or a she."
      "The grandkids." I said. "OK. They go in here. What's their jobs?"
      "Anna is the executive secretary to the GM. He doesn't have an official title, but it was Trevor who was in touch with Malcom and Smith about them buying the park. I don't know about Chris." He read off his own notebook. "I think they're in college someplace."
      I stood back and looked at the web.
      "I want to talk to Trevor and Anna. And the mysterious Chris if we can find... it." I said.

      Anna was attractive, well spoken, and very knowledgeable about the park and everything to do with it.
      I got the impression as we walked through the rose garden with Anna that she didn't want the park to be sold, but she would abide by her grandmother's decision.
      "This is her garden. In fact, it's her park. She and my grandfather built it from a picnic grove with a playground and a boat ride into this." Anna gestured out past the manicured hedge around the garden to the park beyond.
      "So why is she thinking about selling it?" Paul asked.
      "She's worried that running it will tear the family apart once she's gone. Trevor says he wants to go into business. Uncle Max doesn't want anything to do with it. My father is torn, he wants to keep the family business, but he also knows that grandpa didn't have an actual vacation for fifteen years because of this place."
      "How about you?" I asked her.
      "I love it. But I also know that running it, and running it right, takes a lot out of you."
      "How about the rest of the family?"
      "Some are warmer than others to the idea of us moving on. My husband Jack is one of them, he would like to keep it because of the security of owning your own business, but he also doesn't want me tied to it any more than I am."
      "How about Chris?"
      "Which Chris? My youngest brother doesn't seem to care unless he's asking for free tickets to bring his friends here for the weekend from school. Christine, Uncle Max's daughter, is the manager of the Daisy Farm, the kiddy ride area."
      I nodded and wrote down the clarification.

      Christine, for her part, thought selling it was a terrible idea, but like Anna, she would abide by her grandmother's wishes.
      "I just hope that whoever buys it keeps the existing staff on to run the place. I love it here."
      We were standing in the middle of the kiddy ride area, and as the kiddies rode we'd have to lean closer to each other to hear the conversation as the children in the area laughed and yelled.

      "So did either Anna or Christine seem to be an expert marksman and a chemistry whiz?" I asked Paul as we walked back through the park.
      "No. But I'd like to meet Trevor and the other Chris."
      "Me too. Let's stop by and see if Anna knows when they'll be available." I said.
      "You just like talking to pretty women." Paul said.
      "In fact, yes I do. Is there something wrong with that?"
      "No sir. Especially since it is part of an official investigation."
      "Yes sir."
      As it turned out, Trevor would be there the next day for a meeting. We set it up with her to meet him for lunch at the Western BBQ restaurant in the Mine Town area.
      Anna even reserved us a table and suggested the sliced beef sandwich platter as one of the best offerings in the park. Then she gave us coupons for the dinners.

      Trevor didn't look like our chemistry expert - sharpshooter either. He looked more like a salesman and had the smooth mannerisms of somebody that smiled for a living.
      We ordered our dinners, I had the BBQ chicken sandwich and Paul ordered the chef's salad. "I've got to watch my cholesterol." He said. Trevor got the beef and said we didn't know what we were missing.
      But as we sat at the table and listened to the end of the country singing act Trevor seemed a bit ill at ease. Something told me he wasn't as comfortable talking to the police as his sister or cousin.
      We all clapped at the end of the song and then finished eating. The food was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed my sandwich.
      "So, what can I do for your gentlemen?" Trevor asked us in a few minutes.
      "We're just talking to everybody we can about the accidents."
      "Ahh, Roger's dive and Alex's, explosion. Terrible."
      "Yes they were."
      "I heard Roger was awake and able to move his hands a little." Trevor said. "We were going to go up and visit him this weekend."
      "Good." I said. "So tell me, do you know anything about how they happened?"
      "Just what I heard when I got back."
      "Got back?"
      "Yes. Didn't Anna tell you? I've been in New York for the last month working on our IPO stuff."
      "Initial Public Offering?"
      "Yes. Grandma wants to check that out as well as selling the park to another private outfit. I've been meeting with the stock exchange people and a few of the brokers. People like that."

      That sound I heard wasn't the log flume just outside of the restaurant. Although the ride does have a very similar sound to what I hear in my head when one of my pet theories goes down the chute.

      Two days later there was another accident at the park.
      Nobody was killed, but two workers were seriously injured when an arm on the Spider Spun ride came off and smashed through its own control booth and the one for another ride next to it.
      I met Paul at the park before it opened. The victims were on their way to the hospital. One of them was in very serious condition and had been airlifted to the same trauma center they had taken the diver to.
      "They were just doing the morning test of the rides. Becky and Josh both saw it happen, as soon as the Spider Spun ride came to full speed the arm came loose and it..." Anna stopped talking and took a deep breath.
      Trevor was there too, he was escorting a very elderly woman, who in spite of her advanced age and growing frailty, was still sharp and decisive.
      It was obviously the owner.
      "If this happens again I'm going to close the place." She said before we were even introduced.
      "It would seem to be just another accident ma'am." I said.
      "Bullshit. These things are inspected every week and tested every day." She said with no hesitation and total authority. "I've been running a safe park for all these years, and now look what happens."
      "Yes ma'am." Paul answered.

      Our people combed the damaged ride for fingerprints and other evidence.
      Then there were engineers that came in and inspected the ride from one end to the other. They checked the governor on the mechanism that prevented it from revolving too fast, they checked the bolts and welds and everything else.
      It would be some time before we got their report back.

      But this time we did catch a break.
      One of the security cameras in the area was motion activated, and it snapped several surprisingly clear images of somebody tampering with the spider ride the night before the failure. The time stamp was off by an hour because the system didn't like being adjusted for Daylight Savings Time, but that was the only problem with the photos.
      It was the first evidence we had of intentional sabotage of something that resulted in the injury of one of the victims.
      Except now, it was evidence of a murder.
      The more seriously injured of the employees died in the hospital.

      "Anna. I know the picture isn't the best when we blow it up this much. But does that person look familiar?" I asked the lady the next day just outside the main offices.
      "Well. It looks like my husband Jack. But it can't be him."
      "Can we speak to him about where he was last night after the park closed?"
      "Sure. We were here...." Her face drained of color. "He went for a walk after the meeting, before we left." She looked like she was going to faint, I took her by one arm and Paul grabbed the other and we steered her to a bench. "My God."
      "Where is he now?" Paul asked her.
      "He's here, he's in charge of the evening building and grounds crews. Do you want me to page him?"
      "No, not yet." I said. "Let's discuss this in your office. Do you have a better picture of him?"

      We went through it gently with her.
      Jack had quit a full time job with an industrial chemical distributor and now only worked for them in sales during the park's off season. He had also been in the military. Something else that made me underline his name twice was that while Anna went by her maiden name as part of the family, her husband's name was Jack Bakker. We hadn't made the connection before, and I just barely remembered talking to him when we interviewed the maintenance crew during the investigation. If he had been hiding something, he was a master of playing it cool.
      Anna gave us a copy of the photo from his park ID. I made some copies of it to hand out.
      "Access. Expertise." I said as we walked out of her office to begin the search for her husband.
      "Motivation?" Paul asked.
      "He's tired of his wife working sixteen hour days half the year?"
      "Works for me. Where do we start looking for him?"
      "We call for uniformed backup and then ask the grounds guys where their boss is." I said nodding to a man running a lawnmower.


      Jack saw us coming and he had evidently been warned that the preverbal jig was up. Probably by the lawnmower guy telling him over the radio that the cops wanted to talk to him.

      We had uniforms covering the various exits, and even on the boat dock to keep him from hijacking one of the rentals and getting out by running it aground on the other side of the lake. But Jack had no intention of coming quietly.
      And he knew the park like... well... like he owned it.
      What began as me and Paul walking quickly after him turned into a footrace with him having the advantage of knowing every back path and shortcut around the various rides and features in the park. All the time he kept trying to work his way toward one of the exits.
      Finally the pursuit took a turn to the ridiculous. Jack jumped a low fence and climbed onto one of the gondolas on the cable car skyride.
      "Catch the next one. I'll follow on the ground." I said to Paul.
      "Got it." He answered and jumped the fence just in time to catch the next car as it began to lift into the air.
      I had to run to stay below Jack's car, but I managed. As I ran and panted I swore to myself that I'd spend less time in the recliner and more on the treadmill.
      While I was running, Paul was radioing to have uniformed backup at both of the ride's ground stations. I could hear several units responding that they were on their way.
      Then I saw Jack getting ready to try a desperation move.
      He was climbing up on the side of the car and looking like he was going to try to jump and catch one of the towers that supported the cable cars.
      "NO! Mister Bakker! Jack! Don't Do It." I heard Paul shout from his car just behind Jack's. In a second I was yelling the same thing.
      Then several of the park employees were yelling to him as well.
      He didn't listen.

      Jack leaped for the tower. He grabbed it and started to climb down, but then he lost his footing and fell off the tower.
      He fell off the tower and into the duckpond between the Daisy Farm and the First and Main 'downtown' area of shops and restaurants.
      I scrambled over the decorative fence and down the little hill and into the knee deep water before Jack was able to recover himself and make another run for it.
      I helped him to his feet as he got his bearings, then he realized that both of his hands were securely cuffed behind his back.
      "I did it for Anna. You know that right?" Jack said.
      I nodded, then I read him his rights while we were still standing in the pond.

      One of the M&S security guards was standing on the shore to help us out of the water.
      "Good catch sir." The guard said to me as he got a firm grip on Jack's arm while I climbed out.
      "Thanks. Officer..."
      "Henry sir. Matthew Henry."
      I couldn't help but chuckle slightly.

      Downtown Jack kept saying that he hadn't intended to really hurt anybody. But once he was in it, and it seemed to be working in that now the grandmother was seriously thinking about selling out, he didn't see any other way to go but to continue until she did.
      "I wanted Anna back." He said about four times.
      And he continued.
      And in the end, he lost Anna as she immediately filed for divorce. She was using one of M&S's lawyers to boot.
      And now Jack was charged with three murders and a handful of felony assaults.
      And felony criminal damage to property for effectively destroying the spider ride.

      The clincher was that now that Roger the diver was awake and able to speak, he told everybody that he had seen Jack that morning in the pool enclosure and had talked to him for a few minutes.

      The rest of the family had a meeting while Jack was waiting for his trial.
      They were going to keep the park and dedicate the various rides and the theater to the memories of those that had suffered because of Jack.
      But I still won't go on the giant swing ride.

End Amused

For more adventures with The Detective see:
1. The Robbery
2. murder and other fun at The Sun Club
3. The Water Murders
4. Amused To Death
5. Too many suspects spoil the case.
6. The Grand Conspiracy.
7. Murder isn't a Joke.
8. "Sometimes you can't arrest the perpetrator."
9. A Partner In Crime.

the Desk's Fiction Department

[NOTE: All characters, places, events, and businesses/organizations are FICTIONAL. NO inference to REAL anything is to be made. No similarities to ACTUAL anything is intended. This Piece Is FICTION, enjoy it as such. Thank You -the Author.]

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