©08 The Media Desk
"You'll never take me alive, copper! I've always wanted to say that."
"Very funny," I answered.
"Of course! we're in a comedy club!" The man gestured to the small tables and outdated stage lighting.
I knew it was trouble when I saw the Assistant Chief talking to my captain with a folder in her hand. Then the lady walked toward my desk while the Captain stood there with a big grin on his face.
"Yes, ma'am," I answered when she said my name.
"I'm sure you can determine the truth in this case. You come very highly recommended."
"Thank you, ma'am. I'll do my best."
When she turned to walk away I glanced toward my Captain and wondered if I could mail order some fire ants.
The case involved a murder-suicide, except nobody connected with it believed that the woman that was said to have committed suicide after the murder part of the equation had actually done either. But everybody agreed that the murder victim, one Sammy "Big Time" Stallion, was indeed the murder victim, and most said he'd had it coming for years.
The late Mister Big Time was the manager and promoter for the area residents who thought they had looks, or talent, or an act, or whatever. That is, he managed and promoted them until the ones with more hope than talent gave up and went to work at the car wash or something, or the ones with a future got picked up by a big name talent house on either coast. If you thought you had a shot, you signed up with him, and he got his cut of whatever you got paid, and if you made it and went on to Broadway, for instance, he got a "finder's fee" for his efforts.
Unfortunately for Sammy... as near as I could tell nothing that he went by in the business was actually his given name, but 'Sammy Stallion' will do for now... his cut of the take for the local acts sometimes came to half of their pay, and occasionally more. He was known to add on fees for calls to TV networks or record companies for every singer or comic in his stable, what he called Sammy Stallion's Stable much to the derision of several of his clients who didn't appreciate being called a horse, when he'd only discussed one or two of his acts.
According to the background material on him, he quit managing athletes when a local Mixed Martial Arts fighter used Sammy as a punching bag when he was told that not only was Sammy keeping his third place price money for a tournament, he expected the fighter to pay him an added fee for driving the fighter home from the hospital after he'd gotten a sprained wrist taken care of. The fighter broke Big Time's nose, knocked out several of his teeth, gave him a concussion and cracked a couple of his ribs, one handed. There was a note in the file from the paramedic that if the fighter hadn't had his best hand in a sling, he might have killed the promoter.
Sammy ended up dropping the charges, and he also didn't get paid his added fee.
Every act we spoke to during the investigation said, some in no uncertain and sometimes quite colorful terms that Sammy either ripped them off, or forgave fees for.... other services.
As usual, I drew my picture. Except this time it was centered on the two victims. If there was any question about Blanche being the sole cause of Sammy's death, I wanted to be ahead of the game. I listed every act, the clubs he had contact with, other competing promoters, and so on. Then as I investigated and talked to various ones, I found out that neither victim would ever win a 'Congeniality' award if it was voted on by their peers.
Big Time was known to have a soft spot in his heart for the ladies, and evidently didn't mind the occasional dalliance with various males in his stable either. There had been civil actions and minor criminal charges filed from time to time, but nothing that ever amounted to anything. He had also been audited by the various tax and business regulation bodies that he worked under, and he had been fined or reprimanded a time or two, but, at least until he was found back stage at the comedy club suffering from sudden onset acute lead poisoning, multiple gunshot wounds, he had managed to stay in business.
As for the deceased woman who was found next to him, she was typical of those in his talent portfolio. Blanche Charlotte billed herself as the 'worst fat female comic you've ever heard'. As part of my investigation I sat through two videos of her appearances at the club, then I agreed with the summary.
In the first performance an MC had introduced her and she walked out to polite applause, then she sneered at the audience and said, "my name is Blanche, I'm fat, and I'm not funny." And at least for my part, she was right. The second appearance, recorded just a couple of months ago, was even worse.
Her routine was built around the general idea that she was miserable. And from the tapes, it wasn't very well done. The laughter from the audience didn't seem to be spontaneous as they enjoyed the routine. In fact, if I didn't know better, I would have to say that at least some of it was generated by a laugh track. I told myself to check that out.
According to the note that was found in her bag in her locker at the club, she was upset that Sammy wouldn't accept sexual favors from her to offset some of his fee, and that he said he wasn't able to get her a spot on a late night TV show to help her career. He had evidently done both for at least two other female comics, and it used one of their real names, and then referred to the other as 'the biker bitch'. Jealousy and bad business relationships were two strong motivators for both murder and suicide.
As for the semi-automatic pistol that had been found in her right hand, it was hers. She had bought it a couple of years ago and was known to occasionally go shooting at a local indoor range.
I checked out the files on the two female comics mentioned in what was being called a 'suspicious suicide note'. Suspicious chiefly because it hadn't been printed on the victim's home computer's printer, nor was it printed at the club. At home, Blanche had an ink jet. The one back stage at the club was a laser, but it hadn't worked in ages. The other reason was that the victim's fingerprints seem to have been put on the paper after she had died, but that hadn't been confirmed yet.
The other two female comics were both more attractive than Blanche, and were considerably more popular. The one that was named in the note with her real name worked under the name Judy Dare. Judy was a very attractive woman in her mid thirties with dirty blonde hair who did an act that chiefly dealt with women's make-up and beauty parlor dramas. In the tape I watched she seemed to trade mostly on her considerable talent for making extremely expressive facial expressions while dressed in an evening gown. It was Judy that had been on the TV show Blanche's note mentioned.
The other one, the 'biker bitch', was exactly that. Her 'shtick' was to be the 'tough girl'. Her routine was laced with every vulgar expression and curse word I had ever heard, and a few that I hadn't. Her stage persona was almost frightening as she wore full biker leathers, and came out in a helmet that she took off to reveal a mass of unruly and obviously greasy hair. Well, only part of the stage character was real as the hair was a wig, but the 'death before dishonor' tattoo on her arm was real. From what I could tell from her file, she had been using a couple of stage names, but the one that had been working at the club several weekends a month to rave reviews was Rose Thorne.
I decided to go look up Judy and Rose and discuss Blanche's suicide.
Then I changed my plans. I would go talk to them, to discuss Blanche's murder.
"We got lucky," the coroner's assistant told me.
"We usually don't do a CT scan of a suicide where there is obvious evidence that the fatal wound was self inflicted."
"Why did you do it this time?"
"I was showing a new tech how to use the machine. And it showed this. We went into her skull and double checked, and sure enough. There's two bullet paths in her head, and a lot of really small pellets. And the one is not from the gun she was holding. During the initial autopsy we only saw one slug and one wound. Never thought to look for more."
"But there's only one entry wound." I said looking at the photos.
"Yes. Whoever killed her put their gun under her chin and fired, then did the exact same thing with hers. And they used those shotgun shell loads for pistols, we even recovered the shot cup from the round. We're trying to get a match on it to see what caliber it was, it was pretty tore up. Her gun was a nine mil, the slug almost made it out through the top of her skull, here, but theirs bounced around inside her head like golf balls."
I looked at the tiny pellets that showed up as glowing spots on the image from the scan. There were dozens of them scattered throughout her brain cavity, "but that first shot killed her, right?"
"Probably. If it didn't, she would have died pretty quick from it even without the follow-up. The trauma inside her brain cavity from all the ricocheting around was severe."
"OK," I nodded, "let me know about the caliber of the shot shell."
As for the bullets that had ended Big Time's career, they were all from a nine millimeter, but now ballistics was double checking them to make sure it was the 9mil that was registered to Blanche. From the initial reports, some had definitely come from her weapon, but not all.
The first thing I did was to see if Sammy was known to either legally own and carry a handgun, or if he perhaps carried one without the benefit of a permit on the off chance that they had somehow managed to kill each other and his gun was now missing. I started in his two room office in a business park.
"No, sir, not that I know of," his part time secretary told me when I asked about a gun.
"Did he ever act like he was afraid of any of his clients?"
"Some of them scared me half to death about half the time. But him? No, not really."
I nodded and looked around the now closed office, "So how long are you going to keep working here?"
"The end of the month, I'm just using the office to look for another job," she smiled at me, "if you hear of any secretarial openings, I've got a lot of experience."
Then I went to see Judy Dare.
For a stage act that traded on glamour as much as comedic talent, Miss Dare lived in a rather simple apartment with a roommate that taught school and wrote much of her material.
"We're cousins," the roommate volunteered, "nothing kinky, just cousins. We've always gotten along, just we don't get along that good."
"OK," I answered recognizing the cadence and style from the tape.
"Sheila writes great material, but has the worst stage fright you've ever seen," Judy said.
"Then how does she teach school?"
"The kids are shorter than I am," Sheila held out her hand to indicate a kid that was in grade school.
Neither Judy nor her roommate knew if Sammy carried a gun. Nor were they aware of anybody else that hated him enough to kill him or to maybe put Blanche up to it.
"No. Not that I can think of. Nobody liked Sammy, but I don't think anybody hated him that much."
"How about Blanche? Did you know her?"
Judy shrugged, "I'd worked on the same bill with her a couple of years ago, but you didn't want to go on after her. I asked to be scheduled on other nights. That and I'd seen her around, but she wasn't somebody you enjoyed talking to. She was always in a bad mood and miserable."
"She had a lot of physical problems too, or seemed to," Sheila said, "I hated being back stage with her while Judy was on. All she'd do is complain about her periods and stuff. It got to where I'd go outside like I was going to catch a smoke. But I don't smoke," she gestured with her fingers like she was puffing a cigarette.
Rose and her husband lived in a small house in a subdivision. And like her stage persona, part of it was real, and part wasn't. Rose and her husband rode motorcycles, but she didn't wear the leathers to do it. "They're hot and uncomfortable," she said, "And pinch," she worked her legs like she was trying to 'unpinch'.
"The act is all hers," her husband Bill said, "she came up with it a couple of years ago when we were out camping with some friends, she got dressed up and did a stand-up act, and just kept doing it."
"I saw a tape, you don't talk like that in real life."
"I'd hope not. If the kids heard me I'd never hear the end of it. I tell them not to cuss at all."
And again, they'd never heard of Sammy packing heat or having anybody out to do him in.
"I'd seen Blanche around the club, but I didn't like her," Rose paused, "I don't think I'd ever talked to her. Not really."
I didn't ask either of the lady comics about the 'sexual favors in return for the waiving of fees', at least not yet. If that information was required, I'd have them come downtown for a more formal interview.
So I moved on to some of the others in the 'stable'.
"I'm sorry, I am not going to talk to the dummy," I said to the ventriloquist.
"You're still talking to a dummy," the dummy said.
Can I say it now? I've come to hate talking to comics. And ventriloquists too really. But the comics were worse.
The singers weren't bad, none of them broke into song to answer my questions. Although I did get to watch a dance crew go through a routine that they were planning on doing in a competition, but they did that after they'd answered my questions about Sammy in a normal speaking voice.
After I'd been through several acts I felt like I'd sat through enough that I could cast my own talent show. Then I met the next one for lunch at a diner downtown.
"You see Sammy called himself 'Big Time' because that's what he was going to get one of these days from a judge," Terry the Spud said, then he did a drum-thing on the table with his hands.
I didn't laugh. The waitress standing at the next table looked our way and frowned.
Terry the Spud was one of Sammy's comedian clients. Most of his jokes were not funny, his timing was usually off, and he wasn't really very quick witted. In person that is. On stage, he was a riot, and the people loved him. He had to memorize every second of his act before he did it. He practiced what to do with his hands and face, when to move his feet, and even how long to let the audience laugh after a joke. And he admitted it, "I have to practice everything. If I get off my script, I'm dead."
Then I asked him about Sammy and weapons.
"Why would he carry a gun? That'd require him to shoot straight, and Sammy couldn't do anything straight." Again with the drumming.
Then I asked him about Blanche.
"Oh, isn't that terrible. That she felt like that about him." He paused, "I mean, Sammy was a lousy agent, but she was a lousy comic. They were made for each other." And he drummed again.
I just sat there cold.
The contents of the letter had not been made public. As far as was known, the suicide note had not been read by anybody until the police cut the lock off her locker and took her things into evidence.
To me, Terry the Spud had just gotten off his script, and now.... he was dead.
I thanked Terry for his time and went back downtown. To check into him, his locker, his house, his car, and whatever else somebody named 'the spud' would ever touch.... or drum on.
Terry the Spud was a basket case, both personally and professionally.
The more I looked into the man's life the more confused I became as to who, or what, he was.
He had a master's degree in Agricultural Sciences of all things, but had never set foot on a farm that I could tell. He had worked for the highway department for several years, before that he had held a job in a local factory, and during that time, he had a string of part time jobs in addition to his moon-lighting as 'the Spud'. And according to some of those he had worked with at the club, he belonged to at least three different churches.
"Oh, yeah, he'll go to the Catholic Church for awhile, then he'll switch off and say he's back to the Baptists or the Pentecostals," Gracie said, "why do you want to know about Terry? Is he a suspect?"
"He was one of the clients that Mister Stallion ripped off," I answered, "we're just following up on the leads."
"Oh," the Burlesque dancer said, "I never used him, my mom is my agent."
Not only did Terry change religions and occupations on a regular basis, he was truly ambidextrous. I found a video of him on his Spud website where he was painting with water colors with one hand and writing out jokes with the other.
Then there was a link to his online store where he sold his 'left handed water color paintings'. And some of the paintings were actually quite good.
"Fascinating," I said as I remembered the man who had been drumming on the table.
Then the final piece of the puzzle fell into place.
Buried in the biographical information of the 'most original comedic act of the last decade' was a couple of photos from his youth. One was a photo of his father teaching him to shoot. As a kid, Terry the Spud had spent several years with his uncle and father on the rodeo circuit doing trick shooting.
Then I had the idea that if Terry had multiple religions and jobs and even hobbies, maybe he had multiple stage acts.
He did. Under a different name, with another agent, Terry was still available to do trick shooting exhibitions. And in fact, he was scheduled to be at a rodeo at a county fair in a few weeks. One of the promotional photos was of Terry shooting at different targets with a different gun in each hand. And both looked to me like a nine millimeter pistol.
It was enough to get a warrant to search the storage space he used for the trick shot act. In it we found several pistols, and one was a small caliber revolver. In the same bag with the revolver were a box of the shot shell loads and a bag of party balloons. According to the promotional material for the act, he shot and popped the balloons while riding backwards on a horse. I knew using the shot loads would make it a lot easier. It also linked him to Blanche's murder.
The ballistics test came up with a probable match on the nines. At least two of the bullets from Sammy's body had come from them. But as Terry's guns were identical for all practical purposes, there was no way to tell which of them had fired the shots. My feeling was that he had used the revolver in one hand and the nine in the other simultaneously, then covered up Blanche's murder with her own gun. For an expert trick shot, it wouldn't have been hard at all.
With uniformed backup I went to the club to arrest Terry the Spud for two counts of first degree murder and related charges.
The man was on stage rehearsing his act and seemed to know what was going on when we walked in. "You'll never take me alive, copper!" he said loudly, "I've always wanted to say that."
"Very funny," I answered and gestured for the uniformed officer to relax as Terry raised his hands.
"Of course! We're in a comedy club!" To my surprise, and to confirm my suspicion from Blanche's routine, canned laughter floated through the club from the control booth.
Terry didn't resist, and he didn't have anything more dangerous than a rubber chicken on him.
No, really. The full sized rubber chicken was up his right sleeve.
When asked why he'd done it he said he had just been sick and tired of going out to work an audience after Blanche had 'burned them' as he put it. As for why he killed Sammy, "he had it coming."
Terry the Spud got Mister Stallion's "big time" for his crimes, and I added another 'unusual' case to my files.
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.
10. "Somebody is killing all the bad guys."
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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