Episode 6 of Witt Kepler, Private Eye.
The scene inside the Sportatorium was chaotic. Beautiful women dressed in spectacular evening gowns were wandering about backstage, all vying for a minute in front of one of the few full length mirrors. Stage hands were carrying props, directed by a curt and to-the-point stage manager, clearly identifiable by his clipboard and radio headset. Guthrie and his appointed contestant, Vickie Timms, also known as Miss Industrial Boulevard, were placed in line to await a run down the catwalk for photographers.
“Excuse me, sir, but I am here to escort Miss Timms?” A young lad, tall and athletic, dressed in tight blue denim jeans and a plain white t-shirt, appeared ready to take over escort duties.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry, lad. There’s been a change. They need you to supervise the dressing room,” replied Guthrie. He pointed towards a dark passageway behind the side curtains.
The testosterone-fueled man became elated at his new assignment, bounding off in the direction of a closed door at the end of the hallway, stage right. Guthrie tried very hard to squelch his laughter once he heard the screams of the assumedly near-naked women reacting to the naïve stud pumpkin entering their private abode. He knew the boy would either be welcomed to stay by the women or security would haul his butt to jail for being a peeping Tom.
Either way, the Mountie could resume his ruse of being Vickie’s arm candy.
Just before it was time for Vickie to make her entrance, the stage manager came running over to Guthrie, “Hey, you. No firearms for props. That’s the rule. Hand over your sidearm. Now!”
Vickie was focused on primping her blond-ish hair and ignored the mini-drama next to her. Guthrie played it off like a pro, handing over his pistol. “Sorry, chap. No harm done, eh?”
The stage manager grumbled, then left the entrance, signaling to the announcer that it was time for the next contestant to roll.
“Ladies and gentlemen – Miss Industrial Boulevard – Victoria Timms!”
This was their cue to strut past the last black velvet curtain. The catwalk was a runway about fifty feet in length. The entire perimeter was lined with photographers and camera crews. Guthrie was almost blinded by the non-stop flashes from photographers trying to get the best shot of Vickie.
The two were clearly the most popular so far, eliciting almost a standing ovation from the crowd. Vickie was floating on air she was so happy. “A little girl’s dream come true,” she said to Guthrie as they approached the last few meters of their parade.
“You did just fine, Miss. The crowd loved you,” Guthrie said, winking to his partner, Witt Keplar – now holding a video camera at the edge of the catwalk.
Vickie and Guthrie waited in the wings as the remaining contestants made their own entrances. None had the crowd reaction that Vickie had garnered. Both Witt and Guthrie assumed that mobster Ivan Vetski had planted ringers in the audience to ensure his girl had the biggest crowd vote.
Witt looked over at Guthrie, making eye contact. Neither had been able to discover Vetski’s plan, or how a bag of stolen diamonds figured into the whole affair.
Witt Keplar turned to his new acquaintance, the newscaster, asking her if the camera could zoom in and out.
“It can do that, and a lot more,” she said. “Press this toggle switch to zoom in – and reverse to zoom out. Oh, and press this button here if you want night vision. We use that feature a lot when we have reporters out at night, doing undercover work. It’s great!”
Witt zoomed his camera lens in, trying to get the best view and closest close-up he could of everyone suspicious. He even panned the audience, pausing slowly when he found Ivan Vetski in a private box one level up from the main floor. “He’s got a birds-eye view,” Witt mumbled.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed. A drum roll played over the sound system. Suspense was building.
“Ladies and gentlemen – we have a winner! The next Miss Metro Classic is…Miss Industrial Boulevard – Miss Victoria Timms!”
As the celebration started – the sharp crack of a pistol shot brought everything to a halt. The lights went out. The Sportatorium was in complete darkness.
A few seconds later, the house lights came back up, illuminating a dead body on the stage. It was the stage hand who had been carrying the winner’s tiara to the announcer.
“The tiara! It’s gone!” someone shouted.
The lights went out again.
In the confusion, Witt yelled to Guthrie. “There’s a man running up some stairs, stage left. He has the tiara – and a gun! Get him!” Witt was using the night vision camera to direct action.
One more time, the lights came back on. The stage manager, who had been at the light controls, had been knocked unconscious. Guthrie, remembering that his own weapon had been confiscated, twirled Vickie around, dipping her like a Tango dancer, then lifted her revolver from its home high on her leg. Vickie didn’t know if she should slap him or kiss him.
Guthrie dropped the woman flat on the floor, taking aim at the perpetrator. Unfortunately, Vickie had decided that it was time to kiss the Mountie, causing his shot to go awry. The fleeing man turned around, jumping onto the stage. Women were screaming, running off to the dressing rooms. This is just as Witt had hoped, reminiscent of his department store escapades.
The assailant approached Guthrie, who was still fending off the advances of an overly amorous Vickie Timms. The barrel of the man’s gun seemed so close, Guthrie would later swear he could see the spiral rifling inside.
As the man flipped the safety off his weapon, aiming directly at the Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman’s head – another shot rang out.
Guthrie grabbed his pseudo-moll, taking her to the stage floor and rolling away. The overhead sound of metal on metal startled the evil-doer, causing him to look up – just in time to see a huge iron-bar cage fall from the rafters. Within a second, he was trapped, courtesy of an old wrestling match cage used as a prop years earlier. It had been lifted above the stage by ropes, and was only lowered when the wrestlers had “steel-cage death matches,” those occurring almost every Friday night.
Seeing he was trapped and surrounded, the man dropped his weapon and handed over the tiara.
Witt jumped onto the stage, revolver in hand. “Keep an eye on this one. I’ll go after the big fish!”
Turning around, Witt Kepler saw that his nemesis – Ivan Vetski – was gone.
Disappointed, Witt holstered his .38 Police Special. “Next time, Vetski. Next time,” he said to no one in particular.
Guthrie looked at his partner, asking “How did you manage to drop that cage? I only heard one shot.”
“I saw the cage when I was zooming in with the camera, looking for Vetski. When the time came, I just took the shot.”
“Pretty good shooting, Tex. That is what you Yanks say, isn’t it?”
“Only in the movies, Mountie,” Witt replied. “Where I come from, we say One Shot – One Kill.”
- Intruducing Witt Kepler, private eye. (djlutz.wordpress.com)
- If Murder wasn’t a Crime (djlutz.wordpress.com)
- If you can’t say something nice, just shoot. (djlutz.wordpress.com)
- Episode 4 – Where did you park your horse? (djlutz.wordpress.com)
- Vetski’s Den of Iniquity (djlutz.wordpress.com)