There was more than one star on the stage. Another adventure with Rollie Chambers.
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"I hate this," Rollie Chambers said in a low voice; although no one would have heard him if he had shouted. "How did I let myself get roped into being here?"
'This', was Rollie standing in the wings while on stage The Flaming Savages band, led by his client Maxwell Duncan, performed in front of more than ten thousand people. The 'how' was his friend and former colleague Frank Wends. They had worked together as detectives for the St. Louis Police Department before Rollie resigned.
"I'll have to remember to punch Frank in the nose the next time I see him," Rollie said.
Two weeks earlier Rollie was eating his usual Mostoccioli 'All You Can Eat' special at Rigazzi's Italian Restaurant. Seated on either side of him at the large oval table was Tony Rigazzi, the owner of the eatery, and his roommate, girl friend, and significant other, Dr. Jessica Talbert. Rollie and Jessica had been living together for a little over a year. She had recently turned down a lucrative position at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago because she decided that she rather stay in St. Louis with Rollie.
Also with them was Jacob Tully, a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant. He was also a retired St. Louis Police Sergeant. He was now co owner and operator of Missouri Tactical Academy; it instructed policemen and even some military personnel in city type tactical situations. Tully was also Rollie's best friend and between them they had 3 good legs due to Tully's loss in an Iraq explosion after his National Guard unit was called up for the second time.
"Rollie," Frank Wends said with enthusiasm and sat down without an invitation. "Just the man I want to see."
"Drop the sales pitch Frank," Rollie replied with a grin. "Don't want it, don't need it, couldn't afford it if I did. Remember I'm unemployed."
"That's where I can help you. I've got a job for you. Easy job and you'll make $5000 for one week's work."
"I don't do assassinations Frank; it's against the law." Rollie laughed at the look on Frank's face.
"No, no, nothing like that," Frank sputtered. "You can even bring Tully in if you want." Frank turned. "Sorry I forgot my manners. Hello Jessica, Hi Tully and Greetings Mr. Rigazzi."
"What's the job Frank?"
"Well, you know I do some moonlighting as security for visiting big wigs?" He didn't wait for an answer. "I was contacted about a security gig but my wife and I are going on vacation that week. So I thought of you, my friend. I mean you're trying to get 'Chambers and Associates' up and running and this would be perfect for you."
"Again, what's the job Frank?"
"Maxwell Duncan and his band, The Flaming Savages, are going to be in St. Louis for seven days and do two shows. His manager wants extra security while they're here."
"Why the extra security? I thought those rock stars brought their own people with them."
"Sidney Colder, that's the manager, says that Maxwell has gotten a couple of threatening letters since he's been here in St. Louis," Frank answered.
"Just letters? Doesn't seem that serious to me," Rollie said.
"Me either, until Sid told me Max had been attacked in New York. Somebody threw a balloon full of red paint that hit Max. He had a hell of a time getting it out of his hair and never did get his clothes clean. That was when the first letter arrived." Frank ordered a beer from a passing waiter.
"Then after the last show in New York, when Max got out of the limo at the hotel, someone shot Max with a paint pellet gun. Red paint this time also. The next letter said that the paint in the balloon could have just as easily been acid and the pellet gun could have been a real weapon." Frank took a big drink of beer. "The band flew here from New York the next day and Sid thought they'd left the crazy person behind."
"So what changed his mind?"
"They received two more letters after they got here."
"More of the same; so what?
"The two new letters were postmarked here in St. Louis. The first one said that New York was just to show that it was easy to get to Max. The letter said that they wanted Max to worry about when the next attack would happen."
Frank finished his beer and waved the empty bottle at the waiter. "Then, yesterday, another letter arrived. It really spooked Sid and Max."
"Why did this one shake them up more than the others?" Tully asked.
"This letter said and I quote, "The Lord will punish the sinful, Judgment Day is at hand. You will never leave St. Louis."
"Sounds like a job for you guys at the Department."
"We already did our thing. Sidney reported it and we investigated. The envelope and paper are a common type that can be bought anyplace. The postmark is from the main Post Office downtown and the only finger prints are Sid's and Maxwell's." Frank smiled at Rollie. "You know how it is. We don't have enough to go on so Sid was told to call us again if more threats were made. That's when Sid contacted me and that's what brought me to you."
"Sounds like some nut is running a game on the band," Rollie said.
"I thought so too until they got a third letter this morning," Frank replied. "This one said Max could avoid Judgment Day and buy his salvation for 250 thousand dollars. It gives a phone number to call when Max has the money. Probably a burner phone bought at Wal-Mart or Radio Shack."
"It really sounds like a scam now."
"Might be, but this one wasn't mailed. It was left at the hotel's front desk for Max."
"That means the guy is close by," Tully said.
Rollie didn't respond. He sat lost in thought for almost two minutes while Frank and Tully discussed the situation. Rollie looked at Jessica and she shrugged her shoulders. Finally he looked over at Frank.
"We'll take the case," Rollie said.
"I'll let Sid know tonight," Frank said with a grin.
"Couple of things Frank."
"I want to see the letters, not copies, the actual letters and envelopes."
"Thought you might," Frank said. He reached into the inside pocket of his sports jacket and pulled out the letters.
"Not here and not now Frank." Rollie pointed to Jessica and Tully. "We're here for a quiet dinner. Drop them through the mail slot in my front door by 9:30 tonight."
"You said a couple of things," Frank said. "What's the second thing?"
"It'll be 10 thousand for the week," Rollie said. "This is going to be a two man job." He punched Tully playfully on the shoulder and added, "The big guy gets cranky when he loses sleep so he needs a good reason to miss his daily nap."
"Done," Frank said and stood to leave. He grinned and added, "You know Sid would have paid 15 thousand."
"I would have done it for five," Rollie replied with his own grin.
Frank shook his head and laughed. "Here's Sid's card. You can give him a call tomorrow."
After Frank left, Jessica looked at Rollie. "Why did you charge so much? You don't really need the money."
Rollie's parents had left him a large Victorian house converted into four apartments, with no mortgage, across from Tower Grover Park. The area around the park was a much sought after place to live. Young doctors, lawyers, and business people paid top dollar to live in the prestigious neighborhood. Rollie and Jessica lived in a ground floor apartment and the rental from the other three apartments insured Rollie a very nice income.
In addition to the house, Rollie's parent left him a rather large investment portfolio. All and all, Rollie would never have to work a day in his life.
"The big check is how you keep score," Rollie answered with a smile. "Jess, you know me better than anyone. You know how much my private time, my time with you, means to me. If someone wants to cut into that time, they'll have to pay for it." He shook his head. "But I really didn't expect Frank to accept such a ridiculous amount; I was surprised he said yes."
Later that evening, back at Rollie and Jessica's apartment, the three friends examined the five letters. After each of them had a chance to read them Rollie asked, "What do you think guys? Sorry, guy and lady," he said smiling at Jessica.
"Looks like somebody is really upset at Maxwell," Tully replied. "Don't blame them. That so called music they play would make the Pope cringe."
"Let's look at the letters again," Jessica requested. "The first four, the two from New York and the two from St. Louis, are written in a very neat stylized way; almost like calligraphy," Jessica pointed out. "The last one is in a block type printing with no lower case letters, all capitals."
Rollie and Tully looked at the letters as Jessica pointed to them.
"Normally a person doesn't use that smooth flowing script writing a note and then change to printing." Jessica said, "Of course, whoever wrote these could have been trying to lay a false trail for Sid and Max. I can't think of a good reason to do so but it's possible."
"Okay, so we got maybe two different people gunning for Maxwell," Tully said. "And at least one of them sounds like a religious fanatic."
.... There is more of this story ...