Sunday, April 03, 2005

Chapter 9

I waited until a little past four to bring the media packet to Schwartz in his study. He would still be relaxed from his afternoon tinkering-time in the garage, but he would not yet have gotten overly engrossed in whatever item of professional or personal interest he had chosen for himself that afternoon.

“Ahh, Ms Hoskin,” he said as I entered after my knock, “I’m glad to see you. I was going to call up to your room to invite you for a chat anyway.”

“You were?” I asked.

“Yes, I want to discuss this Overlord case with you. I need a favor.”

I sat in one of the two chairs facing his desk. I took a quick glance at the small globe which sat on his computer monitor. I always did this whenever I came into his office. The globe concealed a small web-camera. As I faced it, the land-mass central to my point-of-view was India, so I relaxed. Had I been staring into Antarctica, I’d know that I was being recorded. The overlords are everywhere.

“I was coming to discuss that case with you too,” I said. “What’s the favor?”

“I would like for you to contact Mr. Foyer to see if he can arrange an interview between the contestants and myself.”

“Well, I don’t think Mother has that kind of clout,” I said. That’s what Foyer liked to be called -- Mother. Mother Foyer’s real first name was Clement, but he was a true Mother Foyer at heart. “And I know that you are very well known in police circles, but I don’t think you have that kind of clout with show-biz types.”

“So have him contact the police first,” Schwartz said. “He works for one of the most important news periodicals in the country. I am one of the preeminent detectives in the world. Surely, he can parlay that into something the producers could use to their advantage. After all, as I understand it, this is what they call a sweeps month. It could be good for ratings.”

“I’ll give him a call,” I said pulling my cell phone out of my pocket.

Foyer was at that moment 40,000 feet over Missouri on his way to that press junket with the Overlord production team. When I flipped closed my phone, I said, “He’s going to talk with them and let me know what they decide later tonight.”

“Does he understand that I want to do this interview live on the air tomorrow night?”

“What?” I said. “No, I didn’t know that. Why would you want to do that?”

“Because I want to expose the killer live on television. I don’t want there to be any doubt as to who cleared this case, and I think the exposure of my skills will be a boon to business. The types of cases that we have been getting lately have been embarrassing.”

“So are you saying that you know who the killer is?”

“Absolutely,” he said.

“Specifically who?” I asked. “Not just a vague idea or not just that you’ve narrowed it down to one of two?”

“No,” Schwartz said with a head shaking for emphasis. “I know exactly who did it, how they did it and why.”

“And you know how to expose the killer in such a way that there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind?”

“Absolutely,” Schwartz insisted. “It wouldn’t do me much good to risk making the exposure on national television if I didn’t think that I could make it stick.” He noticed the ream of pages in my lap. “Now what is it you wanted to discuss with me?”

“Oh,” I said. “This is -- umm -- this is a media kit that the producers had sent to the magazine before the show ever aired. It umm -- has everything you could ever want to know about the cast and the way the show is done behind the scenes.”

“Does it include a schematic of the set?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Excellent, that might come in very handy.” He stood and came around the desk to sit in the chair beside me. “And did you say that it included biographical information?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Including biographical information on the production staff?”

I smiled knowingly. “Uh-huh. Some of them. I was reading them earlier. You might be especially interested in the background of one of the technical directors, a man named Al Oldman.” Oldman was my pick for the insider who had contacted Charles and Lance about the results of the psych profiles. According to his job description, he had been in charge of set design. This means that it would have been his responsibility to choose what plants were in the garden. Schwartz turned to Oldman’s profile and read.

“Set design?” He smiled, and I smiled back. “That will be helpful. Could you call Mr. Mother back and ask him to please make certain that our Mr. Oldman is available when we make our revelations.”


I was excited and annoyed at this turn of events. It seemed obvious to me that Schwartz had come to the same conclusions I had, and that part was exciting; but he had obviously reasoned things out a little further. In my theory, both Charles and Lance were working on the killing in tandem. But Schwartz had clearly indicated that he only saw one killer. However, I couldn’t reason if Charles, Lance and Oldman had all been involved in the scheme to defraud the program, how only one of them acting alone could have masterminded the whole murder, or why. If the killer was willing to split the pot three ways, why not four? Why kill Myron? Unless...

Myron had refused to go along with the scheme and had threatened to go public with it if he was not one of the final two. Yes, that could be it. If Myron had insisted on being one of the final two, and if his obnoxious behavior had made it obvious to Charles and Lance that they were not going to be able to keep him from being voted out...

No, that wasn’t it. I remembered that the show didn’t eject contestants based on popular decision. Contestants were ejected by their own performance on the test, and Myron would know the solution assuming that my theory was correct in all other respects. To stay until the end, Myron would only need to be the fastest at entering his “guess” onto his computer.

So maybe that was it. Maybe the other contestant was refusing to lie down and let Myron be the finalist. Maybe the contestant who had been chosen overlord was afraid that Myron would find himself ejected from the show, and that he would then expose their secret. Okay -- I thought -- that made sense.

But Oldman would still have to have put pokeweed on the set and sneak some to the overlord, and this would all have to have been planned before the show went into production, so this still meant that at least two people were culpable, and Schwartz was adamant that there had been only one killer.

Also, I still had no idea how the poison was actually delivered into Myron’s system? How had the Mexican food been poisoned, and how could only one person have been affected by the toxin since they had all eaten from the same community plates? And how had Schwartz decided which of the two, Charles or Lance, was the killer? Unless he thought Oldman did it alone. That made sense, right? But he didn’t even know about Oldman until I showed him the biography, and he was sure that he knew who had done it when I had first walked into the study.


At nine that night I took the call from Foyer saying that everything had been arranged. Schwartz would have to go to the local network affiliate, and he would be part of the broadcast via satellite hook-up.

“This was no easy sell,” Foyer said. “First, I spoke with my network liaison and explained that Gamut magazine was doing a series on the exploits of this famous detective who said that he knew who had killed their contestant and how it had been done. The guy seemed interested until I said that Schwartz wanted to expose everything on live television. You know, nobody has forgotten the Mystery of Al Capone’s vaults.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Geraldo Rivera, remember?” Foyer asked.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said.

Foyer let out an exasperated sigh. “Several years ago, Rivera did a live broadcast special from an old hotel where Al Capone had kept a sealed crypt. They were going to unseal the crypt for the first time in decades on live television. They had a lot of production in reenactments and the network had hyped the show for days. Then at the end of the program when they finally broke through to reveal what they were certain was going to be something, maybe a cache of Tommy guns or gold bouillon, all they found was empty space and a few barren bottles. It was egg on the face of a lot of network honchos, some of whom never recovered career-wise. They didn’t want to risk that Schwartz might have nothing. They wanted to record the interview for later broadcast.”

“But you talked them into doing it live?”

“Not me,” Foyer said. “Todd deMarc. He talked with the police about Schwartz, and they explained to him that your buddy has a perfect record. His reputation for solving crimes, they said, was practically a guarantee. So deMarc came back to the network people and said that he would personally direct the episode so that if it turned out that Schwartz had nothing, it would still be entertaining.”

“How can he do that?” I asked.

“It’s all in the marketing. Starting at noon tomorrow, the network is going to start running a promo that deMarc is putting together tonight. They’ll run it every half hour until air time. They’re going to sell it as a game within the game, only they won’t use that language. DeMarc promises that the promo will be respectable, but it will push the idea that world renowned detective Lupa Schwartz will be on hand to try to determine how Myron ingested the poison. They’re going to leave the impression that maybe the answer will be exposed, but not sell it as the purpose of the interview. The idea will be that if you watch, you, the home viewer, might just pick up enough information to figure it out and collect the reward.”

“Schwartz will never play along with that,” I said. “He says he knows who the killer is, and that’s how he’s going to approach it.”

“That’s fine,” Foyer said. “Once the cameras start rolling, he can do or say anything he wants. It’s live. But they control the cameras and the mikes. They can cut him off at any time.”


I was in Schwartz’s library describing to him the ground-rules which as Foyer had explained would be on a contract Schwartz would have to sign before they would agree to allow him to go on the air. The rules indicated that Schwartz would not be allowed to declare that he knew who the killer was or even that there had in fact been a murder until and unless he had established the facts to the satisfaction of a network lawyer.

“That’s fine,” Schwartz said. “I’ve done this before. I never want to tip my hand too early, so I will play along with their approach right up until it becomes obvious that I know both who the killer is and how it was done. By then, it will be too late for them to deny that I solved the case. It will be obvious who did it and that I knew it before the director ever shouted ‘Action!’”

“I don’t think they do that on live television,” I said. “I think they count down five to one on their fingers and then point when the broadcast is live.”

“I think you might be correct,” Schwartz said, “but I was speaking metaphorically.” He turned back to the book he was reading. “Be ready early in the morning. We have someone to visit. Oh, and don’t let me forget to call my barber in the morning for an appointment in the afternoon.”

A diva was born.

Continue to Chapter 10