CHAPTER 4: A ‘Hunka Hunka’ Trouble

The story so far
The death of fellow tourist Nigel Farnsworth, who had come to Tupelo to find out the “Truth” about Elvis, has left his four companions with a mystery of their own to solve. A book called “The Last Train to Memphis” and some strange behavior by library director Vonnie Wiggins, plus a meeting with Elvis Web site guru Bobby Winchester, have the group wondering what to do next.
– Editor’s note: This 10-chapter serial began Sunday with Chapters 1 and 2 and concludes with the final two chapters on Aug. 16, the 32nd anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.

By Ginna Parsons
Daily Journal
It was almost 10 o’clock before the four Elvis fans gathered again in Irma Jones’ hotel room in downtown Tupelo. They were all beat from the Mississippi heat and a long day of loose ends.
At Irma’s insistence, they’d stopped off at East Main Package Store to get a couple of bottles of wine to drink while they went over what they’d learned so far about the mysterious death of their dear friend and fellow Elvis fan, Nigel Farnsworth.
“I’ll go first,” said Bennett Stone. “This is as good a time as any to make a confession.” He sighed and stretched out his long legs on the floor where he was sitting. Irma had, once again, claimed the only chair in the room and Greta Klaus and Adam Chandler had made themselves comfortable on the king-size bed.
“I didn’t tell y’all this before, because I didn’t know if there was anything to it or not. But when I collected Nigel’s belongings at the morgue, there was an old index card in his stuff with the name of a book on it – ‘Last Train to Memphis’ by Peter Guralnick.
“Well, I went to the library and checked it out. I skimmed through the whole thing this morning while y’all were at breakfast. I couldn’t find a thing in there to help us. Funny, though. On the top of Page 42, someone had penciled in a name … what was it now?”
Bennett took a sip of wine and fished the book out of the satchel he always carried.
“Here it is,” he said as he turned to Page 42. “Robert Salts. That name mean anything to anybody?”
Adam shook his head no. Irma looked at him blankly.
“Wait a minute,” Greta said. “I know I’ve seen that name before.” She closed her heavily lidded eyes and took a big swig of wine.
“I’ve got it,” she said, opening her eyes with a start. “He’s a reporter for the local newspaper. I saw his name on top of a story I read this morning.”
She picked up a complimentary copy of the Daily Journal sitting on the bedside table, almost knocking over Adam’s wine in the process.
“Right here,” she said, pointing to a story on Page 2A. “He must be the crime writer. He’s got two stories in today’s paper, one about a burglary ring and another about a missing statue.”
“I wonder if Nigel talked to him before he was killed,” Adam said. “Maybe one of us needs to have a chat with him.”
Irma poured herself another glass of wine.
“I’ll do it,” she said as she looked at the face of the writer whose photograph appeared next to his stories. “He looks pretty cute to me. I’ll find him first thing in the morning.”
Bennett rolled his eyes. Irma, long-ago widowed, was always looking for available men when the group would gather each year to pay homage to the King of Rock ’n’ Roll and All Things Cool.
“You do that,” said Greta, studying the reporter’s stories and photograph. She wasn’t interested in anyone but Adam Chandler, who was sitting so close to her she could almost feel his heart beating.
“What about you, Adam?” Bennett said. “What’d you find out from that librarian guy this evening? What’s his name? Vonnie something?”
Adam drained his glass and swung his legs over the side of the bed and looked straight at Bennett.
“Man, it was the weirdest thing,” he said. “First, I started making small talk with him, you know, about the weather and stuff. And then when I mentioned Nigel’s name and how you, Greta, Irma and I were doing research on Elvis, he just clammed up. Got downright belligerent, as a matter of fact. Told me he couldn’t help me and it was closing time and I needed to leave. He kept looking at his watch, like he needed to be somewhere. I think he knows something.”
Greta considered Adam’s words.
“Why don’t I try a crack at him?” she said. “Adam, you and Bennett have both met him and I got a glimpse of him when we were picking you up at the library tonight. Irma can’t do it because she’s got to meet with that reporter in the morning. Besides, I’ve got a theory I want to check out with him, something that’s been nagging at me.”
“What’s that?” Irma said, hunching forward in her chair.
“It’s probably nothing,” Greta answered. “Just something that Bobby Winchester said when he was showing us that stuff on his computer earlier tonight. I’ll let you know tomorrow if I’m right.”
With that, the group agreed: Greta would be the next one to take a shot at Vonnie Wiggins.

***

It was just after midnight when the four fans said goodnight and Greta staggered to her own hotel room. She’d had a bit more wine than she’d intended, which was a mistake. She’d wanted to appear fresh and exciting when Adam visited her room in a few minutes, as they’d secretly arranged at dinner earlier.
She grabbed a quick shower, changed into some lounging pajamas and had just turned the lights down low when she heard a knock at her hotel room door.
She smoothed her blond hair and crossed the room. Oh, how she’d waited for this moment!
Greta swung the door open wide and saw a familiar face smiling at her. She started to smile back before she saw the glint on the blade of a knife as it dug into her heart.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal