Back in Atlanta, first thing Thursday morning, Bill phoned Detective Franklin at the Atlanta police department.
“Good morning, Detective,” Bill said. “Bill Maxwell, FBI.”
“Ah, Agent Maxwell, how are ya? You’re not in a shootout in a parking garage are ya?”
“Not at the moment,” Bill grinned. “But if I end up in one, I’ll call ya and you can come screaming in to save the day again.”
The last time Detective Franklin and Bill had crossed paths, literally, was in the parking garage of Bill’s apartment complex where the Fed was in the middle of a shootout with some bad guys and Matt was responding to the call of shots fired. Franklin’s screaming black Buick Grand National had sent the bad guys running and saved Maxwell’s life.
“The reason I’m calling,” Bill continued, “is you have a Jane Doe in your morgue. I’d like to see her.”
“That’s the one I sent a print request on to y’all. Nothing came back.”
“I know. I’m working on a missing person case, young female that fits the description in your report.”
“Ok. She’s over at the Fulton County medical examiner’s office. I can meet you there later this morning, say around eleven?”
“Sounds good. I’ll see you there.”
A little after 11, Bill arrived at the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office and parked right next to Matt Franklin’s Buick Grand National. They walked into the building.
Inside the morgue, they stood solemnly as the attendant unlocked the storage door and slid the slab out. He pulled the bare white sheet back to reveal Jacy’s pale face.
Bill removed the glamour photo from his folder and held it up. Matt looked at the photo and then at the girl on the slab.
“Looks like her to me,” he said.
“Yeah,” Bill said grimly. He gave a nod to the attendant and the sheet was laid back down.
“You have next of kin to notify to make a positive ID?” Matt asked.
“No. There’s a boyfriend, he filed the missing report, but I haven’t tracked down the parents yet.” They paused as the slab was returned to the storage.
“What’s her name?” Matt asked.
“Jacy Thomas. She’s a drama student at the University of Tennessee. She was working as an extra in a movie that’s being filmed up north.”
The attendant handed Bill a clip board with some papers on it for a signature
“What was she doing in Atlanta?”
“Big party at the producer’s house,” Bill said as he signed the form. “That’s where she was last seen.” He handed the board back to the attendant and they left the morgue.
Outside the building, Bill and Matt walked back to the parking lot.
“So,” Bill was saying, “even without the positive ID at this point I think we can reasonably assume that we’ve gone from a missing person to a homicide investigation, Detective. I think we should compare notes.”
“Agreed. Let’s meet back at the department and go over what we have and see if we can get a line on this girl’s parents.”
“I’ll meet you there.”
*** *** ***
They set up in an empty conference room. The priority was locating Jacy’s parents to make a positive ID and give the bad news. At this point, nothing further could really happen until they were sure they had, indeed, the real Jacy Thomas.
“According to the boyfriend,” Bill said, “Jacy was estranged from her folks. He didn’t have contact info and I didn’t find anything in Jacy’s papers, like an emergency contact listing.”
“Probably in her purse,” Matt said. “You didn’t find one?”
“Nope. And I would guess one wasn’t found with her when she was, otherwise you’d have known who she was already.”
“Right. No purse. But she had a diamond choker necklace on her and one diamond earring. Real diamonds far as we know. Haven’t had them looked at.”
Bill recalled the necklace case he had found in Jacy’s motel room. “Really?”
“I found a necklace case among Jacy’s things designed to hold a choker style necklace.”
Matt nodded. “I’m 99% sure we have this girl ID’d. What was going to be your next step to find her folks?”
“Well I had two steps to try: One was to check with the registrar at the University of Tennessee, the other was to check the address on her car registration.”
“It was left at the motel up north.”
“How’d she get to Atlanta?”
“Apparently there was a whole group of them that went in one car.”
Matt paused. “Did the boyfriend go to this party?”
“No, he didn’t. And I know what you’re thinking, that was next on my list was to find the people she rode to Atlanta with and ask them some questions.”
Matt nodded. “You don’t know who she rode with?”
“No, the motel manager saw her leave with a group of people Friday. He could ID the car but that was as far as I got. When I was at the motel that day I didn’t find the car in the lot but most everybody was out working on the movie.”
“How about this then. You want to follow up on finding her parents while I zero on the people Jacy rode with to the party?”
“And when I find her parents I have to give them the bad news. Sure, give me the tough job.”
“I don’t mean it like that – well, okay I’ll admit I’m not too crazy about having to tell them myself because I’m no good at that stuff. I work vice, not homicide and up until now I’ve always accompanied an officer to deliver that kind of news and I haven’t done it often. So I’ll go with you when you find out where they are and all. I don’t mean to completely dump it on your lap.”
Bill smiled. “How long have you been a Detective?”
“Almost two years. I’m still a little green.”
“No, you’re not. You’re a smart kid. Allright, I’ll track down Ms. Thomas’ parents while you find the kids that went to Atlanta with Jacy. I hope they have a good reason for leaving Atlanta one body short.”
**** **** ****
Thursday afternoon, Bill and Matt each headed north on their separate missions. Bill was armed with a Federal subpoena to deliver to the registrar at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga to obtain Jacy’s student records. Matt headed to Hazzard and the motel where Jacy had been staying to try to find the sports car that Bill had the description on. He found it, a red Datsun 280ZX with a black hood. He talked to the owner, a young woman named Lisa, who confirmed that Jacy had ridden in the car to the party in Atlanta. There was nothing unusual though with Jacy not returning.
“We knew Jacy wasn’t coming back with us,” the young woman said. “She said she was staying in Atlanta for the weekend. She did the same thing last time too.”
“Where did she stay in Atlanta, do you know?”
“Where else? She stayed at Mr. Fehr’s house.”
“Who’s Mr. Fehr?”
“He’s the producer. He’s the one that threw the party.”
“Was there anybody else that stayed at Mr. Fehr’s house last weekend?”
The girl shrugged. “There might have been, I dunno. Not exactly my kind of scene, y’know?”
“Staying at the producer’s house.” Lisa looked at him for a moment and then chuckled. “C’mon, you know what I’m talking about.”
Matt shook his head. He knew, but he wanted the girl to tell him straight. “No, I don’t follow.”
“Seriously?” the girl was incredulous. “Jacy stays there because she’s having a fling with him. One of many girls having a fling with him, mind you. Not me though, not my kind of gig. I don’t do casting couches.”
“Oh man, you’re something. Look, sometimes when a girl auditions for a part, she’ll be guaranteed a role in something if she’ll do a little favor for the producer or casting director or whoever she’s auditioning with.” Lisa paused and studied Matt. “You do dig where this is going don’t you? Or do I have to explain what the favor is?”
Matt chuckled. “No, I dig where you’re going.”
“Good. You had me worried there for a minute for being an Atlanta cop. I know Atlanta ain’t the purest place on earth and you weren’t going to last long being naive.”
**** **** ****
Before heading back to Atlanta, Matt stopped at the Boar’s Nest in Hazzard. It was almost 7pm and the place was just starting to get busy with people. Matt had never set foot in the place before, but he had heard about it, and Hazzard, from MaryAnne over the years. Although it had been several years since MaryAnne’s short time as an officer in Atlanta, they had kept in contact and still saw one another when various circumstances brought their paths to cross. Usually, though, it was in Atlanta. Matt had never had an opportunity to visit Hazzard until now.
So it was with pleasant surprise that MaryAnne, dressed in denim short shorts, high heeled sandals and red and white checkered blouse, turned from the bar and came face to face with Matt.
“Matt!” she said, smiling warmly at him. “What a surprise! You found your way out of the city.”
Matt chuckled. “Yeah, I did.”
“What brings you up this way?”
“A case, believe it or not. Missing persons.”
“Another one? Enos just sent one to the FBI the other day.”
“Probably the same case, I’m working with an agent at the FBI on one. We had a Jane Doe found in an alley over the weekend that matches the missing girl’s description.”
“Oh no,” MaryAnne said. “Is the missing girl part of the movie production here?”
“Yeah. I’ve been asking some questions. We don’t have the body positively ID’d yet, Agent Maxwell’s working on that.”
“Oh, you’re working with Bill?” MaryAnne asked with smile.
“Yeah. Though a bit of a change of pace this time.”
“Nobody’s shooting at him. Or you for that matter.” He grinned.
“Amen for that.” She smiled. “Listen, can ya stick around for a bit? I’ll getcha a beer…”
Matt stayed for a couple of hours, had a couple of beers and hung out. MaryAnne introduced him to the Dukes and Cooter and the four men chatted away a good part of the evening. They talked about Hazzard and working as extras on the movie. Without really trying, Matt got a pretty good picture of the inside of the movie production from the stories Bo, Luke and Cooter told.
They talked a little about Jacy Thomas too.
“Yeah, we drove Mike into town so he could talk to Enos and file the report,” Luke said. “Tho’ Enos sent the report on to the FBI. How’d the Atlanta PD get involved?”
“Well, she was last seen in Atlanta,” Matt said. “So naturally we get involved too. It’s proper protocol, if we should come across any information, sightings, unidentified remains, we share that information with the FBI.”
“So if she was found dead in Atlanta, you’d be investigating that too,” Luke said.
“Then you’ve already found her.”
Bo and Cooter looked at Luke.
“There ain’t no other reason he’d be up this way,” he explained. He looked at Matt. “Am I right?”
“We have a body that we believe is Jacy. We haven’t positively ID’d her yet. I’d appreciate it fellas if you’d keep that between yourselves. Agent Maxwell’s attempting to find Jacy’s parents as we speak.”
The Dukes and Cooter nodded. “Sorry,” Luke said. “I couldn’t help but notice that you were pretty interested in our stories about the movie and folks involved with it and it seemed it should’ve been Agent Maxwell sitting where you are asking the questions, not necessarily the Atlanta PD.”
Matt grinned. “No apology needed. Have you ever considered a career as a detective, Luke?”
The boys at the table laughed.
Later, when the Dukes left and got into the General Lee, Bo paused before starting the car.
“What’s the matter?” Luke asked.
“Well, I was just thinking about what Detective Franklin said, about Agent Maxwell having to track down Jacy’s folks so they can ID that body. Didn’t Mike say he talked to her mom? Remember we asked him if maybe she had gone back to Tennessee and he said he talked to her mom and she hadn’t heard from Jacy either.”
Luke nodded. “You’re right…”
“Yeah. Wouldn’t Maxwell have gotten a phone number from Mike?”
“Sure would make things easier.” Luke paused, not liking the implications. “I can’t imagine Maxwell not asking for it.”
“And if he did ask I don’t get why Mike would say he didn’t have it.”
**** **** ****
Friday morning, Bill phoned Matt a few minutes after 8 am.
“Rise and shine, kid,” Bill said. “I got the info on Jacy’s parents. I’m told Memphis is only an hour flight from here. You want to come with me?”
“Absolutely. I said I would.”
“Good. I checked the schedules this morning, there’s a flight leaving at 10:30. We can be on it, if that works for ya.”
“How’d you do in Hazzard?”
“I found one of the girls Jacy went to Atlanta with. The reason Jacy didn’t come back was because she was staying in Atlanta at the producer’s house for the weekend. According this girl, Jacy was having an affair with the producer.”
“Uh huh. The boyfriend suspected as much too.”
“Yeah, well she didn’t get far into the weekend being killed Friday night. When we get back from Memphis, I want to go talk to this producer. He’s renting a house in Buckhead.”
“Alright. I’ve got some court stuff this afternoon that I can’t get out of otherwise I’d go with you, so you’ll have to tell me all about that tomorrow.”
“Should be interesting.”
“So should talking to Jacy’s folks. I’ll see ya in a while.”
When they arrived in Memphis, they learned that Jacy’s parents hadn’t heard from their daughter much for nearly three years. The young woman’s declaration of independence from her folks had been pretty thorough. Although Chattanooga wasn’t really far from Memphis, Jacy may have well gone to the other side of the world to go to college. She rarely came home and the times she did she spent most of it with local friends.
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas were certainly upset to hear of the death of their daughter, but in an odd way they didn’t seem all that surprised by it. In many ways, they had lost Jacy years before. She had been a rebellious and independent type as a teen, with a head full of dreams and desires but little sense to stop and think sometimes of what she was getting in to. She was a smart girl but still just naïve enough to be easily influenced.
Bill had seen firsthand how the glitz and glamour of Hollywood had ruined many a gentle soul. He felt sorry for the Thomas’s. He felt sorry for Jacy too. He and Matt both promised to do everything they could to find out what had happened to Jacy and hopefully bring closure to the grieving parents.
With that in mind, after getting back from Memphis late Friday afternoon, Matt drove to the Buckhead district of Atlanta, the city’s answer to Beverly Hills. The producer of the film, Michael Fehr, was renting an immaculate expensive estate for the duration of the filming. Matt showed his badge at the gate and announced who he was there to see. Once the guard checked with Mr. Fehr, Matt was allowed in.
Michael Fehr started out in Hollywood as an actor. He was tall, trim, tanned and toned. His black hair was immaculate, his teeth were white and straight and he had all the charm and charisma one needed to make it in Hollywood.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t act. His abilities in front of the camera were frequently noted as abysmal. When he found he couldn’t break out beyond the occasional bit part in crappy B movies, he changed his focus and connected with the right people to launch a lucrative career as a film producer.
He still maintained his handsome looks as they served him well in getting a lot of what he wanted. Mostly women.
If he was nervous about getting a visit from a cop, Michael didn’t show it. He stood casually in the living room, dressed in cream colored slacks, blue sport coat and white shirt opened wide at the collar with a couple of expensive gold chains draped from his neck. He watched the open doorway for Detective Franklin’s arrival.
Matt paused at the door. “Mr. Fehr?”
“Detective Franklin?” Michael smiled. “Come in.”
Matt stepped into the large finely decorated living room, taking a moment to look around at the furnishings and décor.
Fehr noticed Matt’s interest. “Ain’t this place a trip? Not quite like the homes in Beverly Hills but a pretty nice place to crash for the time being. I was surprised when my realtor found it.”
“Why were you surprised?”
“Well, I didn’t think such homes existed here. In fact, I was surprised by this whole area of Atlanta…what’s it called? Buckhead?”
Matt nodded. What was he expecting? Shacks? “Yeah, Buckhead. It’s the high end part of Atlanta.”
Fehr smiled. “Who knew? Anyway, what can I do for you, Detective?”
“Well I’d like to ask you a few questions about Jacy Thomas she’s an extra in your movie.”
Fehr’s expression was cool. Inside, however, was a shot of panic. “Is there some kind of trouble…?”
“She was found dead over the weekend, downtown.”
Fehr’s outward appearance was appropriate. “That’s awful,” he said. And it was awful. Dammit, how was she found so soon?!
“We figure she was killed sometime Friday night. You hosted a party here Friday, correct?”
“Yes,” Fehr replied, almost too quickly. His mind raced. Play it straight! Don’t tell him more than he asks for! “Yes, I did.”
“Near as we can figure, Jacy was last seen at that party. Do you recall seeing her there?”
“Yes, I remember her being there.” And with a hundred other witnesses who could testify to the fact the two of them were seen talking to each other, amongst other things, he couldn’t pretend he didn’t know her.
Matt raised an eyebrow. “According to some estimates you had over a hundred people at that party. Do you remember all of them?”
Michael chuckled. “Not all of them, no. But I remember Jacy. I spoke with her. She introduced herself to me. She was very charming.”
Matt made a note and nodded. “Was she at the party the whole time?”
“Far as I know. I… left the party for a little while around midnight. My stomach was no longer in a partying mood if you dig.”
Matt nodded. “Did you go back to the party at any point?”
“I did, I was feeling a little better. I returned as things were winding down, around 1am.” Michael forced a grin. “A last few partygoers were finally leaving. Grudgingly, but they were leaving.”
“Was Jacy among those leaving at that time?”
Michael thought for a moment. “No, she wasn’t. I would guess she left earlier. Most people had.”
“Was this party by invitation?”
“Not formally. It was an open invitation to anyone working on the film. Cast, crew, extras. Everyone. A chance for people to take a break, have some fun.” Michael smiled. “Come back into the 20th century for a little awhile.”
Matt nodded as he made his note. “Sure,” he said. “Mr. Fehr, would you have a list of everyone who’s an extra in your picture?”
“I do. My secretary can get that for you. But the list is over a hundred people, Detective and…well, far be it from me to tell you how to do your job but I have quite a vested interest in this picture, which I’m sure you understand. This…poor girl’s death is notoriety I really don’t need. We’re very close to finishing this film, it has been a monumental undertaking and we’ve been nearly sidelined several times due to everything from the budget to the weather.”
“If you’re asking me to be discreet, Mr. Fehr, I can certainly do my best.”
“I am. I want to be clear that I am willing to help in any way I can to accommodate you in your investigation.”
Matt nodded. “That’s appreciated, Mr. Fehr, thank you.”
“I’ll have my secretary get that list to you if you want to leave me your contact information.”
“Sure…” Matt scribbled the Atlanta PD address and fax number down on a spare sheet from his notebook. He tore it off and handed it Fehr.
“Did you have any other questions, Detective?”
“Not right now. We’re early in the investigation. As things come up, I may be back.”
Fehr nodded. Great. “Well,” he said, “you know where to find me. We have a few more weeks left on the picture so I’m here for a while.”
Matt nodded. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Fehr. I’ll see myself out.” He turned and left the office.
Fehr stepped over to the door and watched Detective Franklin walk down the hall way to the front door. Once the officer was gone, Fehr closed his eyes and shook his head.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
Outside, Matt walked to his Buick Grand National and got into the car. He visibly shivered. Fehr was a creep and the one thing about the entire conversation that bothered Matt more than anything was Fehr had expressed little to no sorrow about the death of this young girl. Like she was merely a broken cog in the Hollywood machine, discard her quickly and let’s continue on.
Matt gave the house a disparaging glance before starting the car and driving away.
**** **** ****
Up in Hazzard, Mike Blake hung up his telephone. He hast just finished speaking with Agent Maxwell, who gave him the bad news that Jacy had been found but was dead.
He sighed with relief. However, things were about to get much more difficult….
**** **** ****
Later that night, the phone rang at Fehr’s rented mansion.
From his bedroom, Fehr ignored the distant shrill that came from down the hall. He was otherwise occupied with the pleasure of two warm and willing girls and he wasn’t about to stop what he was doing. Not even if the house was on fire.
The ringing stopped after a few short rings and was quickly forgotten as the frenzy in Fehr’s bedroom continued uninterrupted.
Down the hall, Dale waited patiently. The ringing telephone was nothing compared to the sounds coming from Fehr’s bedroom; breathless sounds of passion, pleasured squeals from the girls until finally the satisfied roar that came from Fehr.
Dale was sorry he missed out on this session.
It was several minutes later when the two ladies, one a buxom blonde, the other a tall redhead, dressed but somewhat disheveled, left the bedroom. They closed the door and scurried down the hall past Dale, giving him a smile. He smiled back at them.
Yes, he was damn sorry he’d missed on that one.
With the girls out of sight, he walked down to Fehr’s bedroom and politely knocked on the door.
Dale opened the door. Fehr was dressed in a red satin robe with a towel around his neck. He had been on his way to the master bath when Dale had knocked. Dale entered the room and handed a piece of paper to Fehr.
There was a name and phone number on it.
“He called a little while ago,” Dale said.
“He’s got some nerve,” Fehr replied. “Cops must’ve talked to him too. What did he want?”
“Wants to talk to you. I knew this would happen once they found her. You should have let me take care of it, why didn’t you?”
“He said he could do it. He has just as much to lose.”
“Then you better call him and get your stories straight, now that the cops are poking around. As far as we know, Jacy is just some poor chick who got killed after the last party. It had nothing to do with us. You got one more big shipment to handle with a big payoff from Peter. After that we are home free.”
Fehr nodded. “I know.”
“Make sure lover boy understands. Your story to the cops is gospel. If he can’t play along with that script, I’ll write him a new one and he won’t like the ending.”
“I’ll make sure he knows.”
“You do that. Because remember, it was your idea to let him dispose of the body. If you had let me do it they never would have found her.”
“I’ll take care of it.” Fehr slipped the paper into the pocket of his robe and turned, heading to the bathroom. He knew Dale was right, but he hated being reminded of the mistake.
**** **** ****
Bill didn’t make it back to Hazzard that weekend and he called MaryAnne to let her know. His caseload being what it was, he couldn’t spare the weekend but he told her that he had been to Hazzard since he was working the Jacy Thomas case and had seen Rosco.
“Oh? Funny, Rosco didn’t tell me you were in town.”
No surprise, Bill thought. “Well, it was a quick visit. I thought I might catch you at the courthouse but you weren’t there. Anyway, you’ll probably see me at some point where I’m working this case.”
“You’re working with Matt Franklin I understand.”
“Yeah. You know him?”
“Yeah, he’s an old friend. I worked with him when I was in Atlanta for a while.”
Old friend? Bill wasn’t sure why the description bothered him. “Oh. Yeah, he’s a good kid, good cop. He saved my garbanzos there a while back when Noah Vincent was trying to southern fry you, me and Enos.”
MaryAnne smiled. “I’m glad he did.”
“Me too.” Bill chuckled. “Ok, gorgeous, I gotta run. But I’ll see you sometime, ‘k?”
“Ok, Bill. See you soon.”
He certainly hoped so.
**** **** ****
The following Monday morning, Bill showed up at the Atlanta police headquarters with a file folder in hand. Detective Franklin had put through a background check on the producer, Michael Fehr and when Maxwell got a hold of the file results himself, he knew he had to personally deliver this one.
“What made you ask for information from the FBI on Michael Fehr?” Bill asked Matt, after they set up in a conference room with file notes and coffee.
“I don’t like him,” Matt answered. “He’s an arrogant, flamboyant movie producer, all good looking, tanned, nice teeth, lots of money and all that and seems amazed to find Beverly Hills elegance in the same city Sherman burned to the ground. And for a guy who is a known womanizer and was allegedly having an affair with Jacy Thomas, his reaction to this girl’s death was very odd. First and foremost, he said he’d been “introduced” to Jacy the night of the party and yet he seemed more annoyed about the fact that she was dead. Murdered, no less. Too much for him to pause for a moment for the loss of human life.”
Bill nodded. “Good observations. I think you have Mr. Fehr pretty well pegged, Detective. Now…” Bill picked up the file folder he’d brought with him, “…here’s some more reasons to hate him. Mr. Fehr has been on the radar of the FBI for about six months now. He is a movie producer but his means of getting his financing for his films might be a little suspect…” Bill slid the folder across Franklin’s desk.
The detective flipped it open and looked through the notes for a minute. “Hmm…” he said.
“Mr. Fehr should’ve stuck to acting,” Bill said, “even though he wasn’t very good at it. He’s been in Hollywood for about 15 years. Up until about two years ago, he was one of a hundred thousand good looking, tanned, nice teethed guys trying to make it as an actor. Only he wasn’t cutting it but he didn’t know enough to quit. Somewhere along the line he decided to be a movie producer. So far he’s “produced” three films, one of which did pretty well at the box office. FBI was tipped off about this guy when the production company on the last film Fehr produced was driven into bankruptcy. They claim Fehr falsified stuff, had shady accounting methods, the whole lot.”
Franklin nodded, looking at everything Bill was telling him in black and white in the folder. “Told ya I didn’t like ‘em.”
Bill chuckled. “You’re looking for a killer. FBI’s looking to nail this guy for fraud. The two may or may not be related but Commander Mayson thinks we can combine resources and work together on this caper.”
“I’m game.” Matt put the folder down. “So we have the tale of two Michaels. There’s the ex-boyfriend, but from what you told me before, he doesn’t sound like he had it in for her even though she dumped him.”
Bill nodded. “Yeah. And he says he didn’t go the party that night and from all the folks you questioned, that seems to be true because nobody saw him there.”
“Right.” Matt paused a moment. “And based on what the ex-boyfriend says, Jacy was having an affair with Fehr, but Fehr claims he was only just introduced to Jacy the night of the party. So who’s telling the truth and who’s lying?”
Bill paused in thought. “Well, I think Jacy herself can tell us that. Let’s find out who the Michael is that bought her that necklace.”
*** *** ***
G. Howard Jewelers was located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta and Bill and Matt drove up in Matt’s Buick.
The store was quiet when they walked in. After a moment, a man of about 40, dressed in a sharp suit with a silk tie, came out to them.
“Can I help you gentlemen?”
Bill had his badge out. “Bill Maxwell, FBI. This is Detective Sergeant Matt Franklin with the Atlanta Police Department. And you are?”
“I’m Nathan Howard.”
“Nathan Howard. You must be one of the sons in G. Howard and Sons?”
“Yes,” Nathan replied, “that’s correct.”
Bill gave a disarming smile. “Mr. Howard, we’d like to ask you about some jewelry that we believe was recently purchased here.”
The young man seemed almost offended, like he was about to be accused of selling stolen goods. He held back his words, however, as Matt removed the box from under his arm and opened the lid, revealing the diamond choker necklace.
“Do you recognize this?” Bill asked.
Nathan took the necklace box in hand with the choker in view. “Yes, I recognize this necklace. I’m the one that sold it.”
“Do you remember who you sold it to?” Matt asked.
“I’ll have to look at the sale book. It was a couple of weeks ago. If you’ll step this way to the back…” Still holding the necklace, Nathan walked to the back of the store where his register was located. He set the necklace case on the glass display case and opened a gate.
Bill and Matt waited by the display case and Jacy’s necklace as Nathan retrieved his ledger book from a credenza a few feet away. He removed a ledger book and turned back to Matt and Bill, carefully flipping through the pages.
“Ah, here we are. Ladies diamond choker necklace, 2.12 carats, $4,789….”
Matt and Bill both blinked. They had figured the necklace was expensive, but they hadn’t figured it was that expensive.
“…sold to Mr. Michael Fehr.”
Bill and Matt did a slow look at one another. “Bingo,” Matt said.
Bill looked at the jeweler. “How did he pay for it?”
Nathan looked at the ledger. “Personal check.”
Bill nodded thoughtfully. “And it cleared?”
Nathan gave a mild snort. “It did.”
“Would it be possible to get a copy of that ledger entry?” Bill asked.
“Certainly. Give me just a moment.”
After the jeweler left to make copy, Matt turned to Bill. “He bought her a nearly $5000 necklace yet…when I questioned him he acted like he didn’t even know her.”
“Exactly,” Bill said. “He acted.”
“Because she’s dead and he has something to hide.”
When they got the copy of the ledger entry from Nathan, Bill and Matt left the jewelry store and returned to Matt’s Buick. They didn’t drive away immediately, however.
“I say we go see Fehr and show him that,” Matt said.
Bill shook his head. “No. I say we find out what he’s hiding first.”
“How we gonna do that?”
“Well, the boyfriend said that Jacy had gotten hooked on coke and according to him it was either Fehr himself or somebody in his circle that introduced it to her. Fehr’s sources of funding for his films is suspect, if he’s dabbling in a little dope pushing that would explain a few things.”
Matt nodded. “And about the only way we’d get anything with that would be if somebody in the movie production were to see something and be nice enough to tell us about it.”
Bill chuckled. “Right.”
“Here’s a crazy idea,” Matt said. “How about one of us go undercover with the movie production? I hear they’re looking for some more extras to play soldiers.”
“That’s not that crazy of an idea, it’d be perfect. You want to do it?”
“Well, I would….but I’ve been up there asking questions and if there’s a guilty party among any of the people I’ve talked to, they already know I’m a cop.” Matt studied Bill for a moment. “You, on the other hand…”
“Uh… wait a minute…”
Matt smiled. “You ever considered a career in film, Bill?” He held his hands up, forming a box shape between his fingers and lining up his view of Bill between. “The only person you’ve talked to is the ex-boyfriend, right?”
“Nobody would know you. Other than the Hazzard folks, the Dukes and MaryAnne, but they’d dig the score. They’d help you keep your cover.”
Bill thought about it for a moment.
“Bill, if you’re right and there’s a dope angle with all this then there’s things those folks aren’t going to tell either one of us because we’re cops. Jacy was last seen at Fehr’s party, she had a pretty good dose of cocaine in her system at the time she died. If there’s that kind of stuff going on they’re not going say a damn word to a cop and they sure as hell ain’t gonna talk to a Fed. But a new guy coming in, who can watch what’s going on, watch people, ask a few innocent questions… he may hear something. Or see something.”
“Ok, I’ll admit an inside line would be great but… why not use somebody who’s already in the movie? Like the Dukes. Or, uh, MaryAnne?”
“Can’t use MaryAnne,” Matt said. “She’s a deputy sheriff and most of them know it.”
“What about the Dukes then?”
Matt paused. “They’d be contenders but I don’t figure they got a lot of extra time to hang around and snoop. I was talking to them and they pretty much get up early in the morning, do their farm chores, go do their bit for the movie and then head back to their farm to do more work. It’s harvest season, and it might look a little suspect if they did start suddenly hanging out with the movie folks more.”
“Ok. So how do you explain me coming in out of the blue?”
“The harvest.” Matt grinned. “MaryAnne was telling me that some of the local folks have had to drop out as extras because of the harvest work. There’s been a call put out for more extras, both locally up there and through the talent agencies here in Atlanta.” Matt paused, grinning at Bill. “Shoot, I’ve got your cover and backstory already all figured out.”
“Do ya now..?”
“Yeah. You’ve been in California for the past however many years, trying to make it as an actor. You’ve done a couple of bit parts in films, TV shows. No big break. So, you decide to come back east because Atlanta is becoming the big screaming deal in film and television production lately.”
“So I come back to the green, green grass of home. Do I sound like a Georgia native to you?”
“I didn’t say you were a Georgia native. I only said you come back east. Nobody’s gonna care where you’re from, except that you’ve been in California. And since you have, in Los Angeles, you’re home free.”
Bill sat thoughtfully in the passenger seat considering Matt’s suggestion. He was willing to do it and he agreed that his own personal background in Los Angeles was the key element. No wonder Commander Mayson picked him for this case…
He nodded. “Okay. I’ll do it.”
Matt smiled. “Awright. Let’s get started then…” He started up the Buick and pulled out into traffic.
With the go ahead from Commander Mayson, Bill went to work putting together his cover. He picked an undercover car from the motor pool, a black 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix two door coupe. A fake California license plate was added and Bill had the car washed, waxed and detailed. The car added to his cover showing that, although he didn’t quite make the big time in California, his efforts weren’t a total bust either.
Bill went with a different name for this undercover gig as well; William Alexander. A duplicate California driver’s license was made up with the new name. Agreeing to help the FBI, one of the talent agencies in Atlanta put together an entire portfolio for Bill, including a resume, glamour photos and talent agent contact, who would verify Bill being who he was to anybody who might call.
On Wednesday morning, Detective Franklin met with Bill at FBI headquarters to review everything, go over the details and drill Bill on his backstory.
Matt looked at the head shots of Bill that were spread on the conference table. He couldn’t help but smile. “These photos came out really good.”
Bill wrinkled his nose. “Yeah, they’re ok. For an old guy.”
“This is a nice one,” Matt said, pointing to a photo of Bill, dressed casually leaning against a tree, his arms folded in front of him.
Bill gave Matt a look. “What, you want my autograph?”
“Can I?” Matt replied with a grin. He shoved a sharpie pen and one of the copies of the headshot he liked across the table to Bill. “Might as well practice that signature.”
Bill rolled his eyes. He uncapped the pen and turned the picture to sign it. He personalized it, To Matt, Best Wishes, William Alexander.
“How’s that?” Bill asked, sliding the photo back to Matt.
“Nice! Nice flair on that signature.”
“I doubt anyone’s going to ask for my autograph when I get there. I’m not supposed to be anybody, remember?”
“Well, you never know. Just make sure when you’re signing forms, you’re William Alexander, not William Maxwell.”
“Okay, let’s run through your backstory again…”
**** **** ****
Early Thursday morning, Bill packed up and headed north to Hazzard.
On one of the dirt roads heading toward town, Bill cruised along. If there was a speed limit on this road, it wasn’t posted and even if there had been a sign, it would have been wrong anyway. He was hurrying, more or less to try to meet with MaryAnne to let her know what was going on and to have her spread the word to Dukes and Cooter and anybody else, that he was to be treated as a stranger in town, just another extra with the movie.
Turns out, he didn’t have to go far to find MaryAnne. As he sped along the road he passed by a known Hazzard County speed trap. Within moments a white Plymouth Fury cruiser was following behind him, complete with lights and siren.
Bill looked in his rearview mirror. “Oops. Hello…” he said. “Eh, Rosco, you’re not who I want to start the day with…” Bill slowed the Grand Prix down and pulled over, the patrol car coming to a stop behind him.
In the cruiser, however, it wasn’t Rosco. It was MaryAnne. She paused, looking at the license plate and found it odd to see the car was all the way from California – and heading to Hazzard. She grabbed her ticket book and stepped out of the car.
“Awwriight,” she said, as she walked up to the black car. “I hate to tell ya this, buster, but you are definitely not in California anym….” she slowed as she looked at the man behind the wheel.
Bill reached up and removed his aviators. “Nope,” he said with a grin. “I am definitely not in California anymore.”
“Bill!” MaryAnne couldn’t help her grin. She then looked at the car. “What’s all this? Is this your car all the way from California?”
“No, this car is all the way from the FBI undercover motor pool in Atlanta.” He popped the door open to step out. “And you’re just the lady I was on my way to see.”
“Undercover?” she said.
“Yeah. Enos filed a missing persons report a few days ago on Jacy Thomas? Well, she was found dead in Atlanta. I’m going undercover with your movie to find out who killed her and why. I need to ask a favor of you.”
“Not a lot of folks around here know me, but all the ones that do are working as extras in the movie. I need for you, the Dukes, the mechanic there—“
“Right. And anybody else to pretend not to know me. I’m a just a stranger come along to be an extra in this movie and I’m not using the name Maxwell. I’m William Alexander.”
MaryAnne nodded. “I’ll pass the word.”
“Good. I also think you should get out of the movie yourself. Probably Daisy too. There’s some bad stuff going on, MaryAnne, involving cocaine. Jacy was full of it at the time she died. I wouldn’t want to see you in a bad situation.”
“I appreciate that,” MaryAnne said, “but I can take care of myself.” She smiled and tapped her deputy badge on her uniform shirt. “Besides, you need all the allies you can get.”
“Yeah, but this is undercover work, sweetheart, possibly involving some very dangerous stuff. Not something you’d typically have to do here in East Tumbleweed, Georgia. No offense.”
MaryAnne let that slide. “Like I said, you’re gonna need some allies. Bill, do you even know who’s in that production? Where to start and who to watch? What are you gonna do? Go waltzing in as the “new” guy and just start asking questions? Could you be any more obvious?”
“MaryAnne, I know what I’m doing.”
“Then how you gonna work this?”
“It’s called intelligence gathering. I go in, keep my yap shut and listen. Maybe ask a question or two, innocently enough. Observe. Pay attention. Take notes.”
“Wouldn’t it make sense to talk to some people who are already in the production, people you can trust, who can give you a briefing on the who’s who and what’s what, based on what we’ve seen and heard ourselves for the past few weeks? Save you a hell of a lot of time and leg work.”
Bill made a face.
“Just a suggestion, of course. You’re free to do it your way. I think it’s gonna look funny tho’ if Daisy and I suddenly up and quit the movie and I think you’d be making a big mistake by having us do so. You need all the eyes and ears you can get with all the people that are involved in this thing.”
Bill still looked sour for another moment but then he relented. “MaryAnne, I hate to say this. But you’re right.”
“I won’t even gloat, how’s that?” she said with a smile.
“But don’t go doing anything different than what you’ve been doing. Don’t be a hero and try to go after more information and get yourself caught or something. If there’s somebody you think I should be watching more closely or talking to, tell me. Don’t try to do it yourself.”
MaryAnne didn’t particularly like being told that, and her expression was clear. Nonetheless, she nodded.
“I mean it,” he said. “Everyone knows you’re a deputy Sheriff, right?”
“Then they’ll be watching out for you and they’ll be careful what they say. If they suspect you’re snooping around more, you’ll find yourself in trouble and I’d rather not see that.”
MaryAnne nodded again. “I hate to tell you this, Bill. But you’re right.’
He grinned. “Good. Now we’re even.”
“Well, not quite…” MaryAnne opened her ticket book and started filling out the speeding ticket.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m writing your speeding ticket. What name are you using? William Alexander?”
“Yer ticketin’ a Fed?”
MaryAnne checked off the box for speeding and signed the ticket. She tore it off the book. “No, I’m ticketing some hot shot dude from California who thinks he’s gonna make it in the movies.” She handed the ticket to him with a grin.
“Oh boy…” Bill grumbled, taking the ticket.