Adam Chandler is on the verge of tears. He feels terrible about the whole ordeal.
Tweleve hours earlier, Adam was charging into Bennett Stone’s hotel room accusing him of murdering their friend, Greta Klaus. Only the presence to Police Detective George Sonot between them prevented Adam from giving Bennett a beatdown.
Adam now sits next to Bennett in the police station lobby, embarrassed after Sonot tells him there’s no way Bennett could’ve committed the crime. Adam assumed Bennett was the killer since Bennett’s whereabouts were unknown after midnight and his cell phone was under Greta’s bed.
“I don’t know to say,” Adam told Bennett, his voice cracking. “I”m sorry. I, I, …”
Bennett put his right hand on Adam’s left shoulder and comforted him. “Don’t worry about it. Adam, we’re friends. This has been a trying time for all of us.”
“I’ve got to get out of this bloody town,” Adam replied. “Bad things are happening here. Nigel. Greta. It almost got me. All because of this blasted rumor. It’s not worth it.”
Bennett had to convince Adam from taking the first flight out of Tupelo. “Calm down. You’re not leaving. You can’t walk out,” he said. “There are too many unanswered questions. We’re too deep into this. Please stay.”
During their ride back to the Hilton Garden Inn in an unmarked police car, Adam tells Bennett he’ll stay. He then makes a quick observation.
“I never noticed you and Greta had the same kind of telephone,” Adam said.
“Yeah,” Bennett said, “all these black Motorola RAZRs look the same. She apparently grabbed mine when we both set them on the table in Irma’s room last night. Right before you and the detective came to my room, ‘Suspicious Minds’ woke me up.”
“That’s when Irma called Greta’s phone. ’Suspicious Minds’. That was her ring tone,” Adam said, his voice tailing off as the car pulls into the hotel parking lot.
The first person Bennett and Adam see when they walk into the lobby is Johnny Getson, an Elvis tribute artist from Dallas. Bennett met Getson, a 50-year-old attorney with the hair and sideburns of a mid-1970s Elvis, seven years ago in El Paso and they have kept in touch. Getson is in Tupelo during Elvis Week to perform a concert at Fairpark.
“How’s it going, Stoney? Glad you won’t be doing the Jailhouse Rock,” said Getson, mimicking Elvis’ upper lip twitch. The white sweatsuit Getson wears is similar to the blue one he donned the night before when he, Bennett and a half-dozen other fans met in the lobby at midnight and rode together to the Lyric Theatre for an all-night showing of Elvis movies.
“I’m worn out. It’s been too long of a day,” Bennett said. “Johnny, you don’t know how much I appreciate you talking to the police about where I was last night. You know I can’t kill someone.”
“I know, Stoney. Hey, it was a good thing I called when you got to your room,” Getson said. “I didn’t want you to miss ‘Harum Scarum.’ I know you got a thing for Mary Ann Mobley.” Bennett laughed, admitting the Mississippi beauty queen was indeed his favorite Elvis leading lady.
“Well, I better scoot,” Getson said. “Gotta get me some dinner before I practice for the show.”
“Let’s go on up, Bennett,” said Adam, who had stepped aside while Bennett and Getson were talking. “Irma’s in her room.”
* * *
The next day was a busy one for Adam, Bennett and Irma Jones. They met at Bobby Winchester’s place and they rode throughout Lee County, speaking to people who claim to have seen the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and All Things Cool in recent years. “I think we’re on to something here,” Bennett tells everyone as Bobby’s blue Ford Taurus pulls away from their final stop in Verona.
An exhausted Adam went to his room at 8 p.m., but he looked out the window and saw the growing crowd for the Fairpark concert. Maybe some live Elvis music will give him a boost, he thought.
He wanted Bennett to join him, but there was no answer when he called the room and knocked on the door. Irma barely cracked open her door after Adam’s knock, and she declined his offer. When Adam walked away, Irma locked her door, smiled at a male guest in her room and said in a soft tone, “OK, honey, he’s gone. Let’s take care of some unfinished business.”
Adam squeezed his way through the packed standing crowd until he was about 10 feet from the stage. When Johnny Getson, decked out in his rockabilly attire, screamed “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog,” the excited crowd began cheering. “Hound Dog” is one of Adam’s favorite songs. Suddenly, someone behind him places a hand on his left shoulder. Adam hears a familiar voice, but doesn’t have time to turn around.
Using a leather jacket as a cover, the person quickly drives a butcher knife into Adam’s back. Adam staggers forward, bounces off a middle-aged couple and hits ground dead. As the concertgoers begin noticing Adam’s bloodied, lifeless body, panic sweeps through Fairpark. The assailant slips through the crowd unnoticed.
Daily Journal reporter Robert Salts, who was in the hospitality tent next to the stage, rushes out to see the chaos. He pulls out his Blackberry and calls the paper. “Man, you aren’t going to believe what just happened here,” he said.
Bobby Pepper/NEMS Daily Journal