The music blaring out of the old juke box at Smitty’s Bar and Grill painted my mood a whole different color. Ole
Toby was belting out “I Love this Bar.” I have to admit I was pissed off when I walked into the place, but that
song always seems to set me straight and just enjoy the place.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t here for strictly entertainment purposes. I was to meet a client. Now, I wasn’t pissed
off because I was to meet a client, but because I was late. I was late because I had done something last
night I had vowed never to do again—have sex with Tony Marsalis. I wanted to stop and beat my head
against the wall and tell myself what an idiot I was because I had the will power of a large rock.
So, I opened the door to Smitty’s with my panties in a wad and looked around for my client. The place was dim
so I had to let me eyes adjust from the early morning sunshine outside. It also gave me a chance to try and
readjust my panties. They weren’t in a wad because I was stressed out—they were in a wad because they
were crawling up my butt! It felt like, in my haste after looking at an alarm clock in disbelief, I had put one leg
in right-side out and the other leg in inside-out. I could also tell my right bra strap was all twisted which may
account for my trouble in getting it hooked. Actually, in the flurry of activity before Tony and I were horizontal
on the bed, I was lucky to have found any of my underwear at all.
My name is Meg Bartlett, by the way. I’m a working private detective in St. Louis. I kind of follow the old
school of being a private dick. My father, a career beat cop with the St. Louis PD, always told me I was born
years too late for the way I wanted to do things. I politely informed him I had no input as to the time of
conception, and it was a mental picture I was not interested in having implanted in my little brain. Since I was
the youngest of seven kids, I figured the whole story would involve something like me and Tony Marsalis.
Surely my parents didn’t plan on having seven kids. I always considered them slightly unstable, but not to that
When my eyes finally focused inside Smitty’s, I saw a woman sitting in the back booth on the left side. That
was my office. I actually had an office a couple of blocks down the street, but I used it mainly as a place to
think. To the untrained eye, it was probably a disaster area, but I pretty much knew where everything was
located. It just wasn’t a place to use to impress clients, although Smitty’s was probably just a few tenths of a
“You Janet Wallace?” I asked the woman.
“Yes, and you are Miss Bartlett?”
“Sort of. Meg, please.” I sat down and signaled for Wally, the bartender, to bring me a drink. He knew I was
into club soda before noon. After noon, depended on my mood. “So what can I do for you, Janet?”
“I think my husband’s having an affair.”
Gee, here was a novel case! A couple of weeks ago I vowed not to take any more “cheating” cases, because
on my last one, I ended up in a dumpster with oatmeal being dumped all over my body. But, that was before
my car payment was due in three days, and I had a rather large dry cleaning bill to remove oatmeal from one of
my best outfits. I made a quick calculation as to how much money to ask for up front to cover my car
payment, bills, and minimal expenses for a week. Then I remembered the electric bill and added ten percent.
“Ok, Janet. I’ll need two thousand dollars to begin with. You have a recent picture of your husband with you?”
“Yes.” She dug it out of her wallet and passed it to me. He really wasn’t a bad looking guy. From what I
could see of Janet, she wasn’t bad looking herself.
“So, Janet, you have any idea who your husband might be seeing?”
“None. At first I thought it might be his new secretary, but I ruled her out.”
“I tried to follow Bill one night, but lost him. I then went over to Beth’s apartment. I knocked on the door, and
she was there.”
“Didn’t she want to know what you were doing there?” I asked.
“She didn’t know who I was. I told her I must have the wrong address and left.”
“So how do you know your husband wasn’t there?”
“She had her hair in curlers and was wearing an old pair of sweats. Not hardly affair attire.”
“How did you know where she lived?”
“Bill was working late one night, and I dropped in on him. I got her address off her employment application in
“So you’ve checked on him twice and haven’t caught him doing anything wrong. Right?”
“So what makes you think he’s foolin’ around on you?”
“Just too much time that isn’t accounted for.”
“Yeah, that happens a lot.” I saw her face drop. “But not in all cases. Sometimes there’s a very logical
She flashed me a weak smile. “Just find out, please.”
I got all the other pertinent information from her and promised to call her as soon as I found out anything, good
She left and I stopped by the bar on my way out. I flashed the picture of Bill at Wally. “Ever seen this guy in
He glanced at it. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Just a long shot. You never know!” I headed for my apartment to get some clean and unwadded underwear.
The next day at noon I was parked outside the office building where Bill worked. He came out a little before
noon, fired up his car, and made an exit from the parking lot. He was easy to follow. He was driving a huge,
black, hunkin’ SUV that looked like a small mountain rolling down the street. It stuck up above most everything
else on the road. I half expected to see lava start spewing from the top or a couple of guys scale the side and
plant a flag on the roof.
Bill drove to a rather high-end restaurant in the central west end. An hour later, he drove back to his office.
After work, he stopped at a lounge, I assume for a drink, and then went straight home. He stayed there for
the rest of the evening. So far, no party guy! When all the lights were out in the Wallace household, I
dropped by Smitty’s for a nightcap. My office was occupied, so I sat at the bar. I hadn’t been there five
minutes when Tony Marsalis slipped onto a bar stool next to mine. “Meg.”
About half of the drink of beer he had taken dribbled onto the bar. “Slime ball? What the hell did I do?” He
put his elbow on the bar and rested his chin in his hand. “Guess I’m gonna have to study on this one. I can’t
remember doing anything you didn’t seem to like.”
“See! See! That’s the problem! If you were more of a klutz, nothing ever would have happened.”
“So let me get this straight. I’m in trouble because you like what I do?”
“You got it, bucko!” Sometimes my logic defies even me! I drained my glass, slammed it on the bar, and
stormed out. I didn’t want to give him another shot at me…, at least not this soon. There was just something
about this guy that drove me a little bit silly.
I flipped on the tube when I got home and caught the late news. The lead story was about some big
warehouse being robbed. The weather looked like it was going to be nice. Sports didn’t interest me. I
stripped down to my panties and put on an old T-shirt that Tony left there one time. When he asked about it,
I lied and told him I couldn’t find it--he must have dropped it on the street when he left my apartment. I was
never sure he bought the story, but he never really kicked about it either. Slipping into the T-shirt, I felt I was
inside him rather than the other way around, although the other way around was a damned good way.
Bill Wallace was a study in yawns the next day. I walked into Smitty’s around two in the afternoon. Alan and
Jimmy were singing “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” I agreed with them, and ordered a beer. A little later it was
five o’clock somewhere else, and then five o’clock somewhere else. Suddenly, it was five o’clock where I was,
and I needed to get my butt back down to Wallace’s office building. Just like yesterday, he stopped at the
Wayfarer and went home. Where was the unexplained time? I decided I was only two days into this case, so I
didn’t need to draw any conclusions.
After watching Mr. Wallace at lunch the next day, I decided to try something different. I needed to see if
there was anything at all going on in that lounge. I went home and changed clothes. I put on a blouse that
was a little lower than I normally wore and a skirt that was a little higher. I put on black hose and three inch
heels. I made sure the black push-up bra was smiling seductively through the vee in my blouse. Most men
admired my 38 C’s, so maybe he would, too. Next came a generous dose of make-up—enough to be well
noticed, but not enough to be considered war paint. I looked at myself in the full-length mirror hanging on the
back of my bathroom door. Super Slut is on the prowl—saving womanhood from the bad guys! I got to the
lounge before he did and waited.
He came in right on schedule. There were a few other single women in the lounge, either in small groups or a
few by themselves. I sat at the far end of the bar and ordered a margarita. Bill found a stool about in the
middle. After maybe ten minutes he looked my way. I smiled my best come-and-get-it smile and tipped my
glass in his direction. He smiled back and went back to talking to the guy next to him. Now it’s always nice to
find a loyal husband, but it’s a bit of a downer to a woman who looked like me to be ignored, too. Well, it turns
out, I wasn’t ignored. I had several offers for guys to buy me drinks or dance, but none of them came from
Bill. He had two drinks and left the lounge. I followed him home and sat in my car on the street feeling like
maybe I was taking money under false pretenses, but my car payment guy could have cared less. Money was
money! As I was waiting, I checked my notes to see what other information Janet Wallace had given me.
Since it was Wednesday, Janet was going to leave soon to work with a community theater group. Bill would be
leaving a half hour later to go play billiards.
Right at seven, Janet left. Bill left a half an hour later and drove to a billiards hall in the county. It was one of
those places that was nicer than most pool halls. Well lit, clean, nice well-lit parking lot. Bill parked his car and
got out. As soon as he did, another car came flying into the parking lot and came to a screeching halt.
Someone jumped out of the driver’s seat holding something in their hand. Then all hell broke loose. I didn’t
know what kind of gun was being fired, but it was loud and in Bill’s direction. I lost track of the number of
shots. The shooter just kept firing even though Bill was on the ground.
I didn’t feel like I was in any danger because I was parked almost half a block away, but I still had a good view
of the scene. Then, for some reason, the gunman turned and looked my direction before getting back in their
car. I wondered if he had somehow figured out I was there. With the lights in the parking lot, I got a good
look at his face. He was wearing a stocking cap and dark sweat shirt, but he also had a heavy black, full
beard. He turned in a complete circle and then got in the car and sped away. I looked at the car and wasn’t
sure of the model. It was white. By the time I was over the shock and got the binoculars focused, the car
was speeding down the street. The license plate was impossible for me to read.
I called 911 on my cell and went to check on Bill, although I was sure he was dead. Too much lead had been
fired in his direction.
It seemed I went over the story a zillion times with the police. With the way I was dressed, maybe they
figured I was doing more there than just following Bill. They sent a car for Janet Wallace, but the theater club
had been canceled for the evening. Something about there being an electrical problem at the theater. She
retuned home and spent the evening there.
It was close to midnight when I got back to my apartment. I had bunches of questions about what had
happened, but no answers. Granted, I had only been following Bill Wallace for a few days, but he seemed to
lead a very normal life. Why was I being paid to follow him? Why did the gunman make sure I saw their face?
If I had been them, I think I would have been trying to hide at all costs. Maybe they were just checking to
make sure no one was in the parking lot and saw them. And then the big question—should I offer Janet part of
her money back? Without that money, my budget was going to have a huge hole shot in its ass-end.
I went to see her the next morning. The first thing she said was, “About the money,” my heart skipped a
couple of beats, “you keep it. You earned it.” My heart went back to normal.
“I’m truly sorry, Janet. From what I found, Bill was not cheating on you. I think you should know that.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.” She rubbed the side of her neck. There were some red marks there. She saw
me watching her. “Hives. I get them when I get stressed out.”
I didn’t know what else to say. I mean, after all, what can a person really say to a woman whose husband was
just murdered? I gave her another round of condolences and left. I wasn’t really ecstatically happy, but I did
head for the car dealership to make a payment. At least that part was out of the way. I figured this whole
mess was over with. Now it was up to the police to solve the murder. I then headed for the dry cleaners.
Two days later, I stopped in Smitty’s at noon for a beer and a burger. I ran into Mel Short. Mel was one of
the detectives who questioned me about Wallace’s murder. “So how’s goes it, Mel? Anything new on the
“Not really. Nothing has really popped up. We’ve got some shell casings, but no prints on them. Skid marks
from the tires are common. Lucky you were there as a witness or we would have nothing.”
“Well, I’m afraid I wasn’t much help. I sure couldn’t identify the guy if I saw him again. I was just too far
“At least we know it was a man and that he must have really been pissed at Wallace. He fired eighteen shots.
The clip was probably empty by that time. We just can’t come up with any motive for such an execution.
Wallace seemed to be very clean. His record doesn’t even show any parking tickets. He paid his bills on time
and went to work most everyday. Mr. Normal.”
“Yeah, granted I only followed him for a few days, but he seemed that way to me, too.”
“We’ve checked with friends of theirs and everything points to a happy marriage. We checked out the theory
that Janet Wallace may have hired someone, but if she did, she didn’t leave any trail. We found the check she
wrote to you, but no other big money showed up. Then we tried to find a lover for her who may have done the
deed, but nothing there. She’s got a pretty tight alibi. The theater had no electricity, so she went home and
watched television. She even described the shows she watched.”
“Could she have taped them?” I asked.
“There’s no VCR in the house.”
“Well, so much for that idea.” Sometimes my brilliant ideas have a way of losing air before they ever get off
“The only kicker in the whole thing is a life insurance policy. Mrs. Wallace will be Mrs. Millionaire Wallace when
that pays off. But, they had the same policy on both of them. Another dead end.”
After I finished another gourmet lunch at Smitty’s, I left to go check on another case I was working on. I kept
going over the things Mel had said. There was something there that just wasn’t right. He said something that
was grinding at me, but I couldn’t figure out what. Now granted, I was off the clock with the Wallace thing,
but I was not a big fan of murders getting away with…well, murder.
I was driving down Broadway and realized the theater where Janet Wallace was doing community plays was
just two blocks over. I drove by, not knowing if it would tell me anything, but willing to try. There was an
older man out front sweeping the sidewalk. If I have learned nothing else from my eight years as a PI, it was
to talk to the lowest guy on the totem pole that I could find. Most of these people seem to know what is
going on where many times the big shots don‘t have a clue.
He looked at me like I had just called him a bad name. “Ok.”
“Could I ask you a couple of questions?”
“A couple of days ago when the theater had electric problems.” He stood looking at me and waiting for me to
continue. He wasn’t about to give me any help. “Do you know what the problem was?”
He chuckled. “Well, didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. Someone broke the electric meter.”
“How did they break the electric meter?”
“No idea. Wasn’t there.” He started to sweep again.
“Did they just smash it?”
“You might say that.”
“Any ideas what they used?”
“To smash the electric meter.” I was sure exasperation was showing in my voice, but it wasn’t having any
affect on Mr. Concerned.
He leaned on the broom. “Well, the head of the theater group said he figured it was done with a rock.”
“Nope. No rocks. Anyone who knows what they’re doing would realize a rock would get you too close to the
power, and you have a chance of electrocuting yourself. I think they used a stick, maybe something like a
baseball bat. A wooden one. Nothing metal. Could zap yourself with metal.”
“So how long would that take?”
He picked up the broom and swung it through the air like he was hitting a baseball. “’Bout that long.” Nothing
like visual aids to explain a question!
“Thanks.” I turned to leave, but decided to try another question. “You know any of the people who act here?”
“How about Janet Wallace?”
“Not really. Know she’s had the lead in a couple of plays. She seems to play the woman lead, and Jules
Kirkland seems to get the male lead.”
“Who’s Jules Kirkland?”
“I just told you. He’s an actor here.”
“No. Sorry. That’s not what I meant. I mean are they like boy friend and girl friend?”
He wrinkled his forehead. “Do I look like I’m ten years old? You mean are they screwing each other?”
“Yeah, I guess that’s what I mean.”
Two blocks down the street I realized what Mel had said that was bugging me. I gave him a call.
I met with him two days later. “So what got you thinking about all of this?” he asked.
“The first thing was when the janitor at the theater told me he thought Janet was fooling around. You said it
was lucky I was there as a witness. That’s what she wanted. A witness to see the shooting, to testify it was
a man. But it wasn’t a man. The red marks on her neck told me she had probably put on a fake beard and had
a reaction to the glue used to hold it on. That’s why she turned to look at me in the parking lot. She wanted
me to see it was a man. And then, she emptied the gun into him. That’s a woman thing. Men usually just
shoot enough to get the job done. So, she wanted to get rid of her husband and use me to prove she didn’t
“Well, she’s in jail now—for a long time.”
I left Mel—really happy now that I had kept all the money. I stopped by Smitty’s. Tony Marsalis was sitting at
the bar. I walked over by him. “Hi, Tony. What'ca doin’?”
|Lucky You Were There
By: Gary R. Hoffman