The following is a work of fiction. The views and opinions of the characters don’t necessarily reflect those of the author.
What else is a retired detective supposed to do? Sit around? Watch soap operas and game shows? To tell the truth, I hadn’t thought about it much. 35 fucking years of service and now what? I wither and die and yell at the Asian hobos going through my garbage during the day? There’s gotta be something out there for me, no? My kids are grown, and my ex-wife isn’t up my fucking ass anymore. For the first time in my 58 year old existence, I’m totally free with nothing to tie me down. Yeah sure, I was one of those guys who dreaded coming back from vacation. I’d go down to Miami with whatever girl I was with at the time and go, “Man, if only I could have had just one more day on the beach watching the boobies bop up and down” and that’s when my smart-alec partner Hank would cut me off and say, “Who’s boobies? Yours?” and I’d say “Fuck off- you fucking red-neck asshole. Go fuck your sister because if you don’t I will” and we’d all have a laugh, but deep down inside I’ve always yearned for that extra day of freedom. Like most working stiffs, I welcomed retirement as a form of salvation only to now ask myself what’s retirement really saving me from?
Now that I have all the freedom in the world is it crazy of me to want to be needed somewhere? Most of us wake up on a workday thinking, “Gee, if I didn’t have to go to work today, I could go here or there” and “what a beautiful day it is today – too bad I have to go to work.” I can’t remember how many mornings I’ve started thinking that way. Now that I’m retired I know it’s all bullshit. We tell ourselves all the time all the fucking wonderful things we could be doing if it wasn’t for the daily grind, but really who was I kidding? At heart I’m a detective until they put me in the fucking ground bagpipes blasting “Amazin’ Grace” and all. It’s who I am only I didn’t realize it until I came out here a few weeks ago.
Stacy called me out of the blue and told me she wanted me to come visit her out in LA. Stacy is the only ex-girlfriend I’ve remained friends with over the years. Now, don’t expect me to get all sensitive and shit because that’s not me. I’ll admit I’ve always kept a soft spot for her, but it’s not like she’s the love of my life or my soul mate or anything. Fuck, I don’t believe in that kind of shit. The way I see it, the women in my life break down into 3 categories: Category No.1: Women I Respect After the Relationship. Stacy exemplifies this category. The other women in this category I may not have remained close friends with, but at least if we were to run into each other they wouldn’t be total bitches. We might even stop to have coffee and chat sometime if our paths crossed again. Then there’s Category No. 2: Crazy Women Who I Just Want the Fuck out of My Life. These are the hysterical types. They get all judgmental and expect you (meaning me) to owe them something. Just when you start to pull away from them because you realize just how crazy they are, they get vindictive. These are the women who act all entitled. Sometimes you suspect they’ll be like that from the very beginning, but then the sex is too good and so you hedge your bets. I stay with them until I can’t anymore. The final category, Category No. 3: My Ex-Fucking-Wife And Women that Remind Me of Her. Don’t get me started. The less I say about this category the better. My problem with this particular category isn’t with the women themselves but with me. I’ve never been good enough to be with them and it’s only a matter of time before the other shoe drops. As much as they love me (or claim to anyway), I’m just not good enough. These are the heart breakers I suppose. Needless to say I’m not bitter.
So, how do I sum up the last couple of weeks since Stacy invited me out to LA? Where do I begin? Why the fuck am I even writing all this shit down? You know what? I’m going to tell it my own way and whatever you want to believe, believe and whatever you don’t want to believe, don’t believe. I’ve spent a life-time filtering through other people’s bullshit so forgive me if I ask you to wade through mine. Don’t like it? Stop reading. See if I give a fuck.
You see, I got the idea for this story, but I ain’t hiring a ghost-writer like a lot of these retired detectives do sometimes. They got the stories inside of them but they don’t know how to tell them. Maybe I’m no different, but fuck if I’m going to let some second-rate dime-a-dozen hack fucker with glasses put words in my mouth. Oh and by the way, I ain’t going to stop using the word “ain’t.” Fucking nuns drilled it into me that “ain’t” isn’t a word way back when I was a kid. Yeah, I went to Catholic school, which explains my atheism. For those who want to argue with me, “ain’t” is the singular contraction of “I am not.” You see, there’s “we aren’t” and “they aren’t” and “He isn’t” and “She isn’t” but there is no way of making a contraction for “I am not” that matches up with those other contractions we’re allowed to use. I know you could say “I’m not” but you can also say “He’s not” and “She’s not” and “We’re not” and “They’re not” so it all comes down to an aesthetic choice. Somewhere along the line, some fucker who probably needed to get laid decided, “Let’s take away the option to use the phrase ‘I ain’t’ because it doesn’t sound right and because we must all maintain the appearance of having some kind of civilized language. ” Guess what, fuckers!!! I ain’t giving up my option to say “I ain’t!!!!!!” That’s my God-given right in this Godless world. Now when the contraction “ain’t” is used incorrectly when put after any other noun such as “He” “She” “We” “They” or “It” that’s just pure savagery that I won’t abide by. Yeah, I know grammar isn’t (notice I didn’t use “ain’t”) my strong suit.
I was happy to see Stacy again. She looked as young as ever. There’s something in the air out here that keeps beautiful women looking young and healthy. She moved out here almost a decade ago and became an agent. She mostly represents soap opera actors and actresses. I know I know . . . Nowadays actresses want to be called “actors” too because of some bullshit feminist doctrine that dictates that they shouldn’t want their femininity attached to their job description –unless they’re up for an award. Women have a tendency to get uptight about the most meaningless things. There are no more stewardesses either. They are now “flight attendants.” Fuck, I call male “flight attendants” stewardesses just to fuck with them if I think they deserve it. Most of the time they don’t so it’s only once in a while that I do that, but boy, that’s the one thing to say to these jerks when you want to tick them off. You should see the expression on the faces of the assholes I say that to though. They become absolutely indignant.
The last guy I called a stewardess on a flight was one of those who absolutely deserved it. Mr. Stewardess wouldn’t give the old lady sitting next to me a blanket and insisted that the blankets are not free anymore. It wasn’t just the policy that upset me. Fuck, I don’t use blankets on planes anyway. It was the fucking patronizing way he said it to her that set me off. I could tell he was relishing the fact that he was denying some random old lady a blanket. He smiled at her as he told her in a way that just set me off. So, there you go, I called a male flight attendant a stewardess, but in the end, if you’re an asshole you’re an asshole and there are assholes of every persuasion: straight, gay, white, black, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, men, women, you name it. So, if I call someone an asshole and they happen to belong to one of those groups, please don’t get all uptight and politically correct with me. I’d call anyone an asshole regardless of what group they belong to based upon their behavior. I know, you probably already think the worst of me, but I don’t give a fuck.
“Frank!! I can’t fucking believe it. You’re here! You are actually fucking here!” That’s the warm greeting I received upon arriving at the airport in LA from Stacy.
Even though I accepted her offer right away and kept her informed of each step as I booked my flight, rental car, and hotel room it’s as if she didn’t believe I was actually going to LA until she saw me with her own eyes. I felt like saying, “Fuck Stacy. I only gave you constant updates via phone and email over the last week and half. Why are you so fucking surprised to see me?” I didn’t say that of course. Women are allowed to casually curse at you, but heaven-forbid you curse back the same way. Don’t get me wrong. I respect Stacy, but she’s still a woman and there’s still a certain charm and decorum I have to maintain around her. Never kid yourself into believing that your female friend is your buddy (those are words to live by).
As we walked to her car, she stopped and kissed me in the most impulsive way. Stacy is pretty short about 5’6 so she literally got on her tiptoes and since I wasn’t expecting it I didn’t think enough to lean down. Her lips pressed upon mine with the kind of passion I hadn’t felt since I don’t remember when. This wasn’t just a kiss. It was as if she were thanking a hero who had just saved her from a burning building. That’s when I knew she wanted something. I can always tell when that’s the case, yet I couldn’t help but enjoy it all the same. I pulled her towards me and she pressed up against me, and damned if we didn’t look like two teenagers making out in the airport parking lot, her long black hair floating in the breeze behind her and her one foot up in the air. I could always count on Stacy to perk me up, but this was a lot even for her. I half expected the other assorted tourist walking about to tell us to get a room.
After a while, Stacy and I stopped making out and continued to her car. She took me to the rental car service and then followed me to my hotel. We could barely keep our hands off each other as the front desk manager at the hotel took my information and set me up with my room. As you can probably guess, the second we got into my room, we tore each other’s clothes off. I hadn’t even been in LA for an hour and I was already getting lucky. I remember thinking, “I could get used to this” as I stared into her lovely green eyes that look into mine as if she had been doing nothing but craving me for months on end. Stacy and I had an unspoken understanding. We were “friends with benefits” although hell if I can remember when we sat and agreed to that, but she’s been to New York a bunch of times over the years and this thing (whatever it is) keeps on happening.
Afterwards, she was hungry so I ordered room service. When the food came, that’s when she began telling me why she wanted to see me. Of course, she missed me and she really enjoyed the date we had a few months back when she visited New York for the weekend, but the real reason she was happy to see me in LA was because Kelly Showen was her client. She had been murdered nearly two weeks ago and I remember Stacy calling me to tell me about it before it even hit the papers. At the time I remember giving Stacy my sympathies since apparently they were good friends, but now Kelly wanted something entirely different. “Would it be too much to ask you to just ask a few questions and find out more about what’s going on in the investigation?” There it was: The favor otherwise known as that thing when a woman has sex with you and then knows you to be incapable of saying “No” to just about any reasonable request shortly afterwards. I can’t say that I minded much though. I spent my life being a detective so I briefly wondered who was doing who a favor here since I hadn’t exactly settled into retired life just yet and don’t know if I ever will.
I was free to say no to and it wouldn’t change anything between us, but I knew from the moment she asked that I didn’t want to say no. Maybe Stacy knew that too. Maybe she knew I’d be compelled to look into things for her because I NEEDED something. I NEEDED to be somewhere. It’s funny how you could have a purpose for most of your life, and then once that purpose is served you crave it again even though it seemed to be a burden before it was over. That’s what the job felt like towards the end, a burden. Maybe I just needed a change of scenery because the second Stacy articulated her request; I began to imagine myself back in the saddle. Heck, I even contemplated buying myself a Columbo-style rumpled trench coat from Goodwill just so I could feel like a TV detective out here in LA nosing around on a dangerous case.
Of course, my career was nothing like a TV show. Those shows don’t care about showing you the real thing. Everything gets wrapped up in an hour, and the murderer gets caught and the detectives get this self-fulfilling feeling at the end and feel all self-righteous about helping victims and catching bad guys. It was never like that although I always did have a soft place in my heart for Detective Columbo. They show you the killer at the beginning of the show, and Columbo usually figures things out early on and plays dumb so that the killer let’s his guard down. It’s somewhat dated and the plotlines can sometimes come across as very contrived but there’s something about that show that gets to the core of human nature. You see, in the show the bad guys get caught because they’re over confident. They see this bumbling detective poking his nose around asking questions and they figure “this guy’s a dope. I’m getting away with this thing easy.” Then, one of two things happens: Either their own guilt knowingly or unknowingly takes over and compels them towards getting caught or they believe themselves to be invincible allowing their over-confidence to become their downfall. Either way, Detective Columbo solves his case and the bad guy goes away. Yeah, you might have guessed I went ahead and bought that trench coat and splashed a bit of coffee on the lower right hand side. It never hurts to be underestimated.
Kelly Showen used to be a waitress before Stacy discovered her eventually landing her that fateful gig on the soap Constant Yearning after years of hard work modeling and shampoo commercials. Originally, Kelly Showen’s character was only supposed to appear in 3 episodes as a one night stand for one of the lead characters having an affair. Well, on soaps one night can last 4 or 5 episodes and then if they like you, your role gets expanded and you get more work. Then, sooner or later you end up either related to one of the “legacy” characters or you marry one of them. Before the first episode even aired, the producers of Constant Yearning knew they wanted her back so they wrote a new plot for her character where she marries the patriarch’s son, Jacob Rothington, after it’s revealed that his marriage to his current wife was invalid because they turned out to be cousins.
Okay, before you start making fun of me for knowing a little too much about this particular Soap Opera, I’m just filling you in on the details that I learned from investigating this case. It’s not like I ever sat around and watched this silly house wife fodder, and if I did, I wouldn’t fucking admit it here. I’m too busy watching Stallone movies to really give a shit about Soaps anyway so don’t get the wrong idea.
I was only vaguely familiar with the Kelly Showen murder case at the time. Stacy filled me in on the particulars along with some info that didn’t make the papers. She was found dead in her apartment two weeks ago, strangled to death with the only other sign of struggle being a bruised left eye as if she had been punched just before the strangulation. There was no blood, no sign of forced entry, no signs of burglary, and no attempt at rape or sexual assault. Two glasses of wine had been poured and the dining room table was set with candles lit as if she was preparing for a romantic dinner. The prime suspect: her soap co-star and real-life love interest who played Jacob Rothington, Eddie Rodriguez. He’s an actor in his early 30s who had become extremely popular with Soap fans since he joined Constant Yearning 3 years ago. It was rumored that the producers were grooming him to take over the lead role on the show when Soap icon William Collins retires. Stacy told me that within the next 2 or 3 years she expected Kelly Showen and Eddie Rodriguez to the be the lead stars of the soap since the studio was not expecting to re-sign William Collins when his contract came up for renewal.
If it wasn’t for his name, you wouldn’t guess that Eddie Rodriguez was an Hispanic actor though. In fact, the role he played on Constant Yearning was that of the son of the lead character, the patriarch of a decidedly WASP family. A few months ago, Rodriguez gave an interview with Soap Digest where he extolled about the progress show-business had made that we live in a society where he “didn’t necessarily always have to play the ‘Hispanic Guy’ on a series or movie.” That interview landed him some bad press with the local Hispanic media, however, who had previously championed his career. They were disappointed that Rodriguez didn’t acknowledge that there was still an on-going struggle for diversity on television and that the fact that he was “light-skinned” and could “pass for white” was an advantage to him but no help to other talented performers who might be just as deserving.
Kelly Showen had been dating Eddie Rodriguez for about 2 years ever since their two characters had been romantically paired on the show. The two of them would be seen frequently together at all the usual celebrity hotspots and Soap publicity events, and by most accounts they were a happy couple as far as B-List or perhaps C-List celebrity couples go. There were no prior incidents of domestic abuse, but then Stacy dropped this bit of undisclosed information on me. Stacy only knew this because she was friends with Kelly outside of their professional relationship. Apparently, Eddie Rodriguez was bisexual, and he would occasionally entertain male companions outside of his relationship with Kelly Showen. This was kept very quiet and only a select few friends of the couple knew about this.
“Was Kelly his beard?” I asked.
“No,” replied Stacy, “It wasn’t like that. They loved each other. Eddie loved her very much, and they had an understanding . . . sort of an open relationship. I know it bothered Kelly deep down, but she learned to live with it. They were even talking about getting married. You see, she accepted him for who he was. She was never thrilled about it, but Eddie made her happy and the times they spent together I could tell she was deeply in love with the man. She told me he loved her like no other man before, and this is why I want you to look into this. I can’t believe that he would hurt her. I’ve seen them together. It just doesn’t add up.”
“When you say you’ve seen them together and it doesn’t add up, what do you mean?”
“He was very attentive to her and extremely sensitive to her needs. He always made sure she would come first in everything they did. He was constantly holding doors open for her; if we went to dinner and her food wasn’t to her liking, he wouldn’t eat a bite of his own meal despite Kelly’s protest that we should all go ahead and eat; he’d sing to her and write her poems and love letters. This guy literally moved waves to sweep her off her feet. There was never even the hint of the usual frustration that sets in between couples. They were always happy together, and that’s after two years of being together. They were way passed the honeymoon faze of their relationship, and he was constantly romancing her.”
“Maybe he was trying to compensate for his affairs with other men.”
“I don’t think that was it, Frank. I think they were in love. It’s not like he did his thing with other men all that frequently. Kelly told me of three occasions in the two years they had been dating. The first time, I remember she was shocked and was going to leave him, but they talked things out like adults and came to an agreement about it. “
“When was the last time Kelly told you that Eddie was with another man?”
“About three months ago. Actually, it was right after that interview Eddie did with Soap Digest.”
“Do you have the name of this man that he was with?”
“No, but I may be able to find out for you.”
“Please do. I’ll see what I can do, Stacy. You know there’s no favor too big or small you could ask of me, Darling.”
“I know, sweetheart.”
Yeah, I know that lovey-dovey talk sounds fucking corny, but I warned you I have a soft spot for Stacy. That’s about as warm and cuddly as you’ll ever find me. We had a long lingering kiss before we parted ways again. We both had work to do that morning.
I did some more research on the internet to get a better sense of this supposedly happy celebrity couple and that’s when I found an intriguing exchange between Eddie Rodriguez and his co-star, Soap icon William Collins. They each had verified twitter accounts, and while it may not be unusual for co-stars to feud publicly, the current set of circumstances made these exchanges stick out to me. It had been no secret that William Collins never got along with Eddie Rodriguez. Their clashes off screen lent quite a bit of authenticity to their on-screen rivalry. Rodriguez played Collins’ black sheep son on the show. Their characters had a father-son love-hate relationship, which attracted the show’s fans to their characters, and the fact that the real-life actors didn’t like each other would serve as fodder and gossip on Soap message boards for many months prior to Kelly Showen’s murder. Their most recent exchange on twitter was the day before the murder and goes like this:
@WilliamCollins: @realeddierodriguez there are many lessons you will learn in the coming days.
@realeddierodriguez: @WilliamCollins There’s nothing you can teach me except that wisdom doesn’t always come with age.
@WilliamCollins: @realeddierodriguez Your lack of respect will cost you one day
At the time, most people chalked it up to their rivalry, but there has been some speculation and rumors concerning William Collins’ possible involvement in the murder. The police issued a statement that they questioned Mr. Collins and found him not to be a person of interest in the case, but those who are supporting Rodriguez think that William Collins had something to do with what happened. Of course, many people seem to take this suspicion of Collins as something to be dismissed because it stems from the gossip of Soap fans, and ordinarily I might agree, but this case seems anything but ordinary. I decided to see if I could find and question Kelly Showen’s older sister, Lisa Showen. Her initial comments to the press were somewhat puzzling. She seemed convinced of Rodriguez’s innocence, but when prompted for the person she thinks is responsible for her sister’s death her comments seem to implicate Collins even though she never mentioned him by name. Finally, this was a chance to put my Columbo trench coat to good use.
Her house was easy enough to find. It was a plain but modern one-family home with a modest sized lawn, but I did notice a Lincoln town car idling in the driveway out front with a driver waiting inside. I knocked on her door, introduced myself as a close friend of Kelly’s agent Stacy. She didn’t seem surprised to see me, but surprise could hardly be my reaction when I would see none other than William Collins sitting comfortably on Lisa Showen’s patio furniture outside the rear glass door. Lisa’s eyes told me a deeper story. I could tell by her expression that I had intruded upon something sordid, and judging by Mr. Collin’s confident smile, I might have arrived too late to disrupt whatever discussion the two of them had recently concluded.
Then, in this patronizing tone of voice Collins spoke, “You must be Stacy Metcalf’s detective friend. I thought you might drop by here, but I couldn’t be sure when.”
“I’m actually retired, Mr. Collins. My Name is Frank and I do happen to be Stacy Metcalf’s friend. Actually, I’m surprised to see you here, but first tell me why were you expecting to see me?”
“I may only be an actor, but when my sources tell me that Kelly’s agent has hired a detective to look into the murder it only makes sense that you would question Kelly’s sister.”
“And I take it you are only here because you wanted to comfort Lisa in her time of grief?”
“What a superlative deduction for an old gumshoe. “ That’s when he stepped in closer and leaned his face in until his lips nearly touched my right ear. “Best you get on with your retirement as these are matters that are best left alone.” He started to walk away calmly and slowly but then paused dramatically, “The two of you should let the Los Angeles Police do their job. They’re quite good at it, you know.”
As soon William Collins left Lisa Showen’s home, she let out a sigh of indignation. She looked really quite attractive despite her agitated state. Her regal long black hair came down to her breasts complimenting the gray tank top she was wearing, and her cleavage left just enough to the imagination. She had the face of a tigress, fierce and strong yet alluring and graceful at the same time. Sometimes anger makes a woman’s most attractive qualities stand out, and that was exactly the case with Lisa Showen. This inner wildness she had accentuated her beauty, and for a woman in her mid-forties she looked about 34.
Of course, I was just as taken aback by this encounter with Mr. Collins and I let her know. “What a smug douchebag.”
“That smug douchebag killed my sister,” She said angrily, “Listen I know Stacy told me you were coming, but are you sure you’re cut out for this?
“Ah, I see my befuddled detective disguise worked well on both of you.” Just then I took off my now multi-stained rumpled Columbo trench coat resting it on the back of her couch, brushed my hair back into place, and stood up straight. You know how Clark Kent opens up his shirt to reveal the big “S” to become Superman when really he was Superman all along?” Well, that’s sort of the effect I had on Lisa because she looked at me in a whole new light afterwards. I took the opportunity to re-introduce myself. “Madame, Detective Flecha. . . Frank Flecha at your service.”
Astonished she said, “You look at least 10 years younger now. How did you do that?”
“Well it’s not just the trench coat and the hair. It’s how I decided to present myself and carry myself and the gruffer crusty voice I put on. I knew something was wrong before I even approached your door. Call it instinct. Anyway, Mr. Collins behavior just now only confirmed my suspicions. Is there somewhere nearby where we can get a drink?”
“Sure, I was thinking the same thing. There are some details I need to fill you in on, but first promise me something.”
“Promise me you’ll catch him and put him away because if you don’t I’ll kill him myself.”
“You need not worry. Detective Flecha always gets his man,” I said without a hint of sarcasm.
That’s when she coyly leaned into me caressing my face and slowly kissed me on my lower lip. I kissed her back. She took one step back and said, “Tell me something. Does Detective Fletcher always get the girl too?”
Without hesitation, I said “Well, that part is sometimes trickier to navigate, but generally speaking I tend to get what I want . . . and I want you.”
She gave me a look and I followed her to her bedroom ignoring the fact that she didn’t get my name right. At this point though, I had no reason to care about that. From then on I knew she would be one of the crazy ones that I should stay away from, but I couldn’t help myself. For some reason, I’m slightly more passionate about the crazy ones. There’s just something in their eyes most people confuse for yearning that lures me in time and time again. We made love brutally and intensely as if we were the only two people in the world and as if her sister’s murder had never happened. We were just two strangers in each other’s orbit, and that’s what made me fall for her – her ability to just shed away the worst experiences in life and let them lie in the ether for just enough time to take in the pleasure of our lust. We’d get to that drink eventually, but as I always said since way back when, the bar can wait.
The bar she took me to was a dive, but I kind of expected that. There was none of that awkwardness between us after we did the deed either. It was as if we had all this down to a routine, and she was extremely comfortable with me as I was with her. We got ourselves a table, and I began by asking what Collins had on her.
“It’s not what he has on me. It’s what he has on Kelly and Eddie.”
“You mean Eddie’s sexuality?”
“That and the sex tape,” She said without a hint of timidity. She was far from the timid type anyway.
“Excuse me. Who’s sex tape?”
“Kelly made one when she was in college. As she started getting more acting gigs, she was always paranoid that it would get out, but her ex promised her that it would never get out. Somehow William Collins has his hands on it.”
“How’d that happen?”
“He has hired goons of course, Private Detectives on his payroll who aren’t shy about bending the law. Someone broke into Kelly’s ex’s house and scoured for it about a month ago.”
“Did you tell the police this?”
“No, Kelly never wanted that tape to see the light of day. She was afraid of how it would ruin her reputation. Even though she’s gone, I have to respect that. Anyway, Collins’ visit was to confirm that he had the tape. He digitized it and showed it to me on his phone. One peep from either one of us to the police and that tape gets the TMZ treatment. He also has photos of Eddie’s rendezvous with other men that he intends to use if he needs to.”
“I promise to help, but I can’t guarantee that I can stop all this stuff from coming out. “
“I realize that, but we have to try. It’s bad enough Kelly was murdered by that bastard. I don’t want her memory ruined too. She meant a lot to me, my younger sister.” Then after a pause, I got asked the question that I get asked most often in life, “So . . . What kind of name is Fletcher?”
I always have to go into this explanation in order to clear it up, and sometimes quite frankly I don’t always feel like explaining it. Sometimes, the mystery is better, but this was one of those times when I felt I should. After all did we not just get to know each other in the most intimate of ways a little while ago? The least I could do is offer an explanation about my name so I did. “It’s actually Flecha – F-L-E-C-H-A . . . Flecha.”
“Flecha? What kind of a name is Flecha then?” she asked phrasing the question exactly the way I had anticipated it.
“It’s Hispanic. Puerto Rican actually. Both my parents are from there. They came to New York after getting married and I was born in Brooklyn actually.”
I’ve grown accustomed the surprised reactions of people who I tell this to, but Lisa’s jaw stood open quite a bit longer than most. “You’ve got to be kidding. You don’t look anything like a Puerto Rican to me. I was going to say you look Italian.”
“I get that a lot, but that’s my name.”
“Eddie looks white too, but with a name like Rodriguez everyone knows he’s Hispanic. Plus we all know his story since he’s famous and all. Did you know that his grandfather was Eddie Rodgers?”
“Don’t you watch old black and white movies? Eddie Rodgers was a big time actor in the 1940s and 50s. Most people didn’t know he was Hispanic at the time since he changed his name from Rodriguez to Rodgers so he can get more leading-man roles. Eddie talked about it quite a bit in the interview he did with Soap Digest.”
“I didn’t know that. “
“Yeah, Eddie actually did the reverse and legally changed his name back from Rodgers to Rodriguez back in the 90s to reflect the fact that he and his family are proud of his heritage.”
Then she whispered to me in what she must have imagined to herself to be a seductive alluring tone, “You make love like a Latino. Now I know I want you all over again.” I suppose she meant this as a turn on, but it actually turned me off a little bit. I think she could tell because she never brought it up again.
We both sucked down our Heinekens one after the other. I must have had 4 while I’m sure she had 3, just enough to get a buzz on and loosen things up a bit. She told me more about herself and her sister and how close they were. Up until she was 28, she had been a model but decided to give it up as she couldn’t deal with the starvation involved. Kelly was more determined to break through and become a star than Lisa was. Lisa was content to settle into a normal life and support her sister, but she lived her show-business life vicariously through her sister.
When Kelly landed the gig on Constant Yearning, Lisa was so proud. Even though she never watched Soaps before, she would watch every episode Kelly was on and many times attend cast events with Kelly. I got the sense that while she genuinely mourned her sister’s death, she was also mourning the show-business life that wasn’t her own. With the exception of William Collins most of the cast were always easy to get along with. Things started to change right around the time Eddie Rodriguez did that interview with Soap Digest. Neither Kelly nor Lisa could figure out what bothered William Collins about this profile that the magazine did on Eddie, but something changed his demeanor entirely. What had been a standard bitter feud beforehand between the two men only intensified but no one could figure out why. I asked Lisa if she had a copy of the now three month old Soap-digest that featured this profile on Eddie Rodriguez, and she replied that of course she had it. She kept very meticulous records of any mention the couple had in the media. She asked me to come back to her place and spend the night, and I couldn’t resist so I did.
When we got back to her home, she opened up Vinyl Record player turntable she had in her den. Next to it was a collection of old 45s. She picked one and put it on and before I knew it she was dancing to the song “Second that Emotion” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. That crazy wild look was in her eye again only now it was even more intensified and desperate, and for some reason I couldn’t resist it yet again. Yeah, I know I have a fucking problem, but that hardly registered with me as I watched her hips sway back and forth to the music as she teasingly pulled up her skirt while she danced closer and closer to me.
She sang along to the lyrics, which for anyone who hasn’t heard the song is about the singer pleading with their lover not treat them like a one night stand. Despite that being exactly what I thought this was, I gave in and kissed her and when she asked me if I would truly give her “A lifetime of devotion,” I lied through my teeth and said yes because that’s what guys do. We fucking lie for sex and I’m obviously no different even though I should have known better. I swear I had no idea what kind of “devotion” she thought she was getting from me, but there it is. I know I sound like a scumbag, but really, what was I supposed to do? We had sex on the floor in her den, but afterwards I felt tired and deflated desiring nothing more than to crawl into her bed and actually sleep for a change. She tossed me the issue of Soap Digest just before she retreated to her bathroom for a steaming hot shower leaving the door open for me to watch everything.
Her deliberate motions of seduction getting into the shower started turning me on again but I turned my attention to the profile that somehow caused William Collins’ behavior to change. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the interview at first. When asked about the alleged feud between him and his costar, Eddie Rodriguez merely commented that the rivalry brings out the best in both their performances. Then, out of nowhere a light bulb went off in my head. I made a mental note to look into this in the morning. For now, I made a concerted effort to be asleep by the time Lisa Showen emerged from the bathroom lest I should succumb to her advances yet again making our eventual parting of ways problematic. I was just about dozing off when she crawled into the bed next to me. Before I knew it though, her mouth was in the one place I couldn’t ignore and so began Round 3.
Morning came and my head was in an immense fog. I felt like I had just run a marathon, and for all intents and purposes it was a horizontal marathon of sorts. I was damp with sweat, and she was still asleep dreaming about whatever women like her dream about. I got dressed and made a discreet exit. Stacy called as I was getting into my car. I made the mistake of letting Stacy know that I was just leaving Lisa Showen’s home. That’s what happens when a woman opens the phone call with “Where are you?” without even fucking saying “hello” or giving you the chance to think. Whenever a guy like me admits to leaving a woman’s home at 7am or earlier to woman like Stacy there is always that pause of judgment then an awkward attempt to move on and change the subject. That’s exactly what happened. I could tell that her initial reaction was disappointment followed by a quick attempt to recover by sounding apathetic followed by changing the subject in an awkward attempt to sound unfazed. “I found out Eddie’s liaison that night was with a man named Stuart Shepard.”
“Do you have an address or phone number?”
“Even better. He’s with me right now.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Stacy lived in a townhouse just off Waverly Drive. Sunlight pierced the tall windows facing the street on the outside revealing her pacing back and forth in her long pink nightgown holding her favorite coffee mug. I could tell she was anxious when she opened the door.
“I thought you’d never get here.”
“Sorry, I’m not used to driving in LA. My GPS probably got me here the long way but I wouldn’t know.”
She took one long look at my disheveled hair and the stubble on my face and said, “You know. . . Some things never change.”
“Stacy, I . . .”
“Never mind. Stuart’s inside. You should talk to him.”
Stuart was dressed in a casual business suit. He had a short professional haircut and carried a briefcase. He looked more like a Wall Street stockbroker instead of a man about to confess to having a gay love affair with another man accused of murder. He spoke calmly and confidently, “I was with Eddie that night, but until now I was afraid to come forward.” He explained that he met Eddie Rodriguez at a gay singles club called The Hot Spot that night. He wasn’t expecting to meet a celebrity especially one who wasn’t officially “out” at the time. The two of them shared drinks until eventually Eddie explained to him that he had “a pass” so the two of them went to Stuart’s hotel for the rest of the night.
“Eddie’s facing a murder charge. I’m glad you did decided come forward.”
“You don’t understand. I’m only coming forward to you. I still can’t go to the police with this.”
“Because I’m married. I have kids. I can’t expose my family to all the shit that will happen. Besides, Eddie won’t admit to it either if he hasn’t already told the police where he really was that night. He has his pride . . . and so do I.”
“I appreciate you telling me all this, but I don’t know if I can help Eddie without your help going forward.”
“I think you can. You see I wasn’t the only guy who hit on Eddie that night. There was another guy coming on to him pretty strong that night. I captured some video on my phone before Eddie approached me.”
“Really? Let me see.”
“I’ll send it to you but just watch it on my phone for now. That guy hitting on Eddie in the video. I’m pretty sure he’s not gay. A week after the murder, I was watching some interview where William Collins was commenting on Kelly Showen’s murder. When he got into the car, I could see the driver and it’s him. It’s the same guy. Before that I only knew that Eddie was innocent because he was with me, but that’s when I began to suspect that he was being set up just like they say in those Soap gossip boards. I couldn’t believe it.”
“Well, I’ve been starting to come to that same conclusion myself, Stuart. “
He left quietly without saying goodbye to Stacy or me, and Stacy left me alone in her kitchen while she got dressed. She told me to make myself at home so I made myself a turkey sandwich before getting to work to find Collins’ driver. I took the liberty of making two mimosas and offered one to Stacy when she re-emerged from her bedroom. She took the drink and laughed quietly to herself before saying, “Don’t get the wrong idea. My feelings aren’t hurt or anything.”
I stood up and tried to think of something to say but couldn’t. She put her drink down as I approached her. The only thing I could think of to do was to give her a hug and I did. It was a platonic hug that both of us knew would not lead to anything more. With that hug I tried to convey all that she meant to me without words, and I think something got through because she began to cry on my shoulder. I closed my eyes and for the first time I let myself feel that love of friendship that existed between us. Until then, I didn’t think I could love anyone in quite that way without wanting more but I did. I genuinely did. As we slowly parted I told her, “I don’t ever want to hurt you again and . . .”
“And that’s why we could only be friends,” She finished.
“No more physical stuff. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” she said quietly, “I thought I could handle all of it. I know who you are and what you do and I thought I could handle it . . .”
“But you can’t and that’s okay, “I said, “You do mean a lot to me but I want you to be happy.”
We both went back to work. I did some research which would come in handy later and Stacy got to work finding the driver. We were working as a team and it felt good. With Stacy’s connections in the Soap industry, it was pretty easy finding out the identity of William Collins’ driver. His name was Samuel Bardoon. I also wanted to talk to Eddie Rodriguez himself at some point, but that was going to prove difficult as his lawyers were keeping him pretty much in hiding even though he was out on bail. By this point I had put all the pieces together and if I could figure out a way to get someone to talk to the police, at least Eddie would be off the hook.
That person finally came in Samuel Bardoon. A Texas –born slack-jawed hick if you ever saw one, he lived with his mother in a small loft on the rough side of town. His mother answered, and I could tell she was scared for her son as she thought I was police. I explained to her that I was investigating this matter independently, but if her son didn’t cooperate I have information that the police could use against him. I suppose there was something about me that she trusted once she knew I wasn’t with the police so she called her son down and let me ask him a few questions.
“There wasn’t supposed to be a murder. I was just supposed to take Eddie Rodriguez to a hotel and slip him a mickey to keep him out until the next morning so that Mr. Collins could get what he wanted from Ms. Showen. I swear nothing bad was supposed to happen. Mr.Collins . . . he told me he’d pay for my mother’s surgery. She needs hip replacement and we have no insurance. I was just trying to help my mother. Honestly.”
“Do you know what he wanted from Ms. Showen?”
“He wanted her to sleep with him, sir.”
“So blackmail for sex was that his game?”
“Mr. Collins hates Eddie Rodriguez so much and he collected all their secrets and used it to get Ms. Showen to sleep with him if that’s what you mean. The man talks to himself in the car a whole lot. I ain’t no fruit but I figured nobody’d get hurt. Funny, you should mention blackmail because he kept going on and on and muttering to himself about some kind of black list.”
“Listen, I know you’re scared, but you need to tell your story to the police detectives investigating this case. They may not entirely believe you at first, but I’ll talk to them on your behalf and share everything I know with them. By the way, I have to commend you on your use of the word ain’t. You know, I wasn’t sure about you, but now I think you’re alright”
“What are you talking about, sir?”
“Oh, never mind. When are you supposed to see Mr. Collins again?”
“I’m supposed to drive him to some premiere tonight at the Kodak at 8pm.”
“Don’t mention any of this to him. Give him this note when you’re about halfway there. Tell him Lisa Showen stopped you on the street just before you came to pick him up and gave you this to give to him. At some point, I find it very likely that he will instruct you to drive him to a different location. Do as he says and make sure you wait until he goes inside to call the police.”
I wasn’t 100% sure I could trust Samuel, but he seemed innocent enough to follow through. Even if he didn’t it would tell me more about how Collins’ operates anyway. It was time to talk to Eddie Rodriguez. It’s only fair he should know Collins’ motives behind all this. He was staying at his grandmother’s house until the trial started since the press was camped out at the house he shared with Kelly Showen, which was officially a crime scene. Stacy made sure the family knew who I was. I was instructed to go around to the back of the house and knock on the door across from the swimming pool. His grandmother let me in. She was frail but could still get around the house with a walker. I could smell the Latino cooking. The smell of rice and beans brought me back to my own childhood and my own grandparents. After turning down multiple offers of food and drink (which is what my own grandmother would have done) I was led to a movie screening room of sorts. Posters of Eddie Rodgers adorned the walls. Movie props filled shelves and cabinets among them a prop gun, a cane, a cigar case, and much more. Eddie was setting down drinking from a glass that had been poured with Bacardi.
“So, you’re Detective Frank Flecha? Puerto Rican?”
“Yeah, I know you are too.”
“Stacy has been a close friend of my family for a while. She told me I could trust you.”
“You can. I think I know what this is all about.”
“Ever wonder why William Collins has had in it for you?”
“I figured him for a closeted bigot. You know the Hollywood-types. They pretend to be liberal, but something told me from the beginning that he didn’t care for the idea of a Latino man playing his son even if it was only acting.”
“That might have been a small part of it, but there’s more. . . It has to do with the man being celebrated in this very room. The man in the posters, the man who gave your grandmother this beautiful home, the man who became a star and gave his family a life he wanted for them and all the opportunities that came with it.”
“I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Detective.”
“Your grandfather, Eddie Rodgers”
“What about him?”
“If you’re familiar with American history, you’d also be familiar with a period in the 1940s and 50s when the Hollywood Blacklist targeted many people in the entertainment industry. Actors, screenwriters, directors, and anyone connected to Show-Business lived under threat of the House Committee on un-American Activities.”
“I know my history, Detective.”
“Anyway, you may not like what I’m about to say. I know this all happened years ago before you were born, but your grandfather gave one name and one name only to the Committee. That name was Martin Collins, William Collins’ father. Apparently, they were both identified as having marched in the May-Day parade in 1953.”
“Are you calling my grandfather a rat?”
“No, not at all. I’m sure you’ve read at least one of the biographies written about your grandfather.”
“Then, you’ll know all about some of the prejudice he encountered from people who knew about his heritage. One of those people was Martin Collins. Martin Collins never made it big, but he did land a small role in one of Eddie Rodgers’ films, The Dame from Crystal Place. According to some of the research I’ve done, there was an incident on the set when Martin Collins’ lines were cut. He was alleged to have called Eddie Rodgers a pejorative word for Hispanic that I won’t repeat here in your home. I think you know which one. Anyway, the incident passed, but when Eddie Rodgers went before the Committee in February of 1954, he gave them Martin Collins’s name. Martin Collins never worked in show business again.”
“And you just figured all this out how?”
“Well, it’s a long story but it’s all available to anyone who knows how to look for it. I have to figure William Collins put the pieces together fairly easily once he found out the two of you would be working together. Anyway, you should get this information to your lawyer. It’ll help with your case. Also, I have a video on my phone. The man you were with won’t come forward, but you’ll recognize the guy that’s hitting on you in the video. That’s William Collins’ personal driver. I think he’ll talk to the police.”
“You know about the stuff Collins has on me and on Kelly?”
“I don’t care about the stuff he has on me anymore, but I love Kelly. I don’t want her memory ruined. If he goes to jail, he’ll be sure that everything comes out. The last thing I want is for that sex tape to go public.”
“I have a plan. I’m not sure it’ll work, but I do have a plan. I don’t think you need me to tell you that you should still be proud of your grandfather. “ I motioned to the posters and movie memorabilia around the room, “He made all this possible for your family.” With that we shook hands and I left.
I had a little preparation to do before arriving at Lisa Showen’s house that evening. Basically, the type-written note I had Samuel Bardoon give to William Collins said, “If you think Kelly was good in bed . . . I know a few tricks of my own. My place 8pm. You’ll have all the payment you need – Lisa.”
I made sure Lisa was on board but I didn’t quite tell her everything. She liked my idea, and since she thought I was completely devoted to her after our all-night horizontal marathon she didn’t think I had anything else up my sleeve. There was plenty of time to set up video and sound equipment to capture what I hoped would be a confession, but I had to act fast. Bardoon was supposed to call the police as soon as Collins walked in.
The wait seemed interminable because that’s what happens when you wait. Most detective work is waiting, but most of the time you’re not even sure if the wait would pay off. This time I was pretty certain it would. Collins arrived as expected. As soon as he walked in the door, I fired my revolver. The bullet went passed him and shattered the window next to the door. Lisa stood behind me. “I see I have your attention, Mr. Collins.”
“I knew this could be a set up. What are going to do detective, kill me? Do that and everything I have gets exposed.”
“No, Lisa is going to do that unless you tell me where the sex tape is.”
I handed Lisa the gun. Her faced beamed with the kind of confident radiance she probably never felt before. I could tell she enjoyed this bit of villainy. She wore this silk purple dress that came down on her just perfectly accentuating every curve in her body. The thought occurred to me as I watched her holding that gun as she drew closer and closer towards Collins’ face that she was perfectly dressed for murder. She turned around and shot that wild look at me that told me she wanted me all over again. She screamed not a scream of panic but a loud scream of devious joy. That’s when Collins’ broke.
“Don’t shoot!!!! Don’t shoot!”
“You have something to tell us,” I said.
“The tape is in my safe behind the bar in my home and it’s digitized on my phone. I destroyed the file on my computer.”
“Give me your phone,” I said.
I took the phone from him and smashed it. “Now I think Lisa deserves to know how her sister died. Let me help you start. You were blackmailing her for sex only something didn’t go quite right. “
“I don’t want to say.”
“Oh but you must because Lisa can still pull that trigger. She laughed at you. Didn’t she? Kelly laughed.”
“How did you know? It was just supposed to be my revenge against Eddie.”
“For what his grandfather did to your father.”
“My father was blacklisted. He could have become a big star if it wasn’t for what Eddie Rodgers did to him. My father could have named names too but he didn’t.”
“ENOUGH!! So Kelly laughed at you when you couldn’t get it up.”
“I told her to give me a few minutes. She was going to go through with it. She wasn’t going to struggle. The Viagra didn’t kick in. She laughed and I punched her and before I know it, my . . .” That’s when he started sobbing. That’s when they all started sobbing.
“Finish what you’re saying, Collins”
“My hands were around her throat!!!”|
He broke down on the floor and Lisa’s devious joy at pointing the gun on his head turned into something even more vicious. She pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. She pulled the trigger again . . . nothing. She pulled the trigger a third time but nothing happened. That’s when she turned on me. She came at me running screaming leaping on my back and started punching me. I didn’t do much to stop her. When the police pulled her off me, all I could manage to say was, “Sorry darling, but you’ll thank me some day for shooting blanks.”
I explained everything to the detectives, but you know how it is. They have to confirm everything for themselves. Lucky for everyone Samuel Bardoon talked. The charges against Eddie were dropped, and sources say William Collins will plead guilty to manslaughter. The sex tape was never found, but Eddie’s sexual activities that night were revealed. As I write this, a VHS tape is now burning in a garbage bin next to me. Want to know how I got it? Fuck, I ain’t gonna tell you. Some things are better left unsaid.
I fly back home tomorrow. Stacy is supposed to take me to the airport. LA was nice while it lasted, but New York is my home. Before I leave, I’ll hug Stacy, give her one last kiss on the cheek and say, “Thank you. I needed this” and she’ll know exactly what I mean. You see when you love somebody . . . Oh never mind. Fuck, who am I kidding? I don’t want to get on that plane tomorrow, but I will. It’s not like she needs an old fuck like me in her life anyway. I’m always less sentimental in the morning. It’ll make it a hell of lot easier to just leave. Anyway, judging from the tape, Lisa was right. She had plenty of tricks in her routine that her sister hadn’t quite mastered at least as of the time the sex tape. I’m actually quite confident I’ve experienced the better of the two sisters.