The story so far
Five tourists who have come to Tupelo is search of the “Truth” about Elvis are dying off at an alarming rate. Nigel Farnsworth was killed in a hit-and-run. Greta Klaus and Adam Chandler were stabbed to death. Now it’s up to the two remaining friends – Bennett Stone and Irma Jones – to find out who’s doing the killing, and why – and even they are suspects.
– Editor’s note: This 10-chapter serial began Aug. 9 with Chapters 1 and 2 and concludes with the final two chapters on Sunday, the 32nd anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.
By M. Scott Morris
“Am I under arrest?” Bennett Stone said, rubbing the remnants of black ink from when an unsmiling officer had taken his fingerprints.
It was a sensible question, since he was sitting behind a gray table in a gray room at the Tupelo Police Department. The table had a ring to fit handcuffs through, but Bennett wasn’t chained to it.
“Are you under arrest?” Detective George Sonot said. “Are you under arrest, Mr. Stone? I can think of a few good reasons why you should be. Here’s three: Nigel Farnsworth, Greta Klaus and Adam Chandler. They’re all your friends and they’re all dead.
“Then there’s that little matter of the butcher knife …,” he continued.
“Which I gave to you,” Bennett said. “I don’t know how that got into my car. Don’t you see? Somebody killed Adam and the rest and they’re trying to frame me for it.”
Sonot put his foot on a chair that was on the other side of the table from Bennett, then the detective absently picked his teeth with his thumbnail.
“If these old walls could talk, they’d tell a whole pack of lies. You know what I mean, Mr. Stone?” Sonot said. “People sit right where you’re sitting and they weave their stories. Sometimes, I can see the little gears in their minds just whirring and clicking away.
“Oh, every now and then, somebody says, ‘It was me. I did it.’ But mostly, they lie.”
“I’m not lying.”
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that before, Mr. Stone.”
From her hotel room window, Irma Jones had seen Bennett get out of his car and carry something to the nearest police officer.
“Run, you idiot,” she had whispered.
She watched Bennett drop what he was carrying and kneel on the ground, while the reporter Robert Salts snapped away with his camera. Bennett was going to be front-page news.
“I’m not going to join him,” she told herself.
She’d cried all the tears she was going to cry for Adam and the rest. Irma wiped her eyes, then hurriedly packed her bags and grabbed her briefcase that held the team’s research about the hunt for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and All Things Cool.
Irma mentally reminded herself not to use “All Things Cool” again. That was Nigel’s line, and Nigel was gone.
Though she hadn’t officially checked out of the hotel, Irma was done with the place as soon as she stepped out of a side door. She calmly rolled her bag to her rental car and put it in the trunk, then put her briefcase in the front seat.
Just go, she thought, but kept looking at the briefcase. I’m so close. It’s the scoop of a lifetime. I can’t quit now. I can do this.
A left turn would’ve taken her to Highway 45, which would’ve taken her to Highway 78 and on to Memphis. Irma Jones turned right.
Sonot left Bennett alone for nearly half an hour. All he had for company were the lying gray walls, a cup of mediocre coffee and his thoughts, which kept turning in one direction: He needed to talk to Irma.
The detective returned holding a shiny sheet of paper and looking disappointed.
“Mr. Stone, it says here you’re an entrepreneur,” Sonot said, “but the state of New Mexico doesn’t allow for the sale of marijuana, does it?”
“That’s more than 15 years old. I did my time, and I’ve been clean since,” Bennett said, then nodded toward the coffee cup. “The only thing you’ll find in my system is caffeine and a couple of glasses of wine.”
“That may be,” Sonot said, “but another thing I’ve learned in this room is folks tend to kill other folks over drugs.”
“We don’t have time for this. Have you talked to Irma Jones?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Have you called her? Her number’s in my cell phone.”
“Don’t worry, Mr. Stone, we have your accomplice’s phone number.”
Bennett considered banging his head on the metal table. Instead, he exhaled and shrank into his chair.
“I’m not saying anything else without a lawyer,” he said.
“Heard that before, too,” Sonot said.
Vonnie Wiggins didn’t notice the scratches on the door of his blue Honda as he climbed in, but he felt the knife on his throat.
“I followed you to Verona last night,” Irma Jones said from the back seat. “I saw who you met there. You’ve been keeping a very big secret. It’s time to let it out.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking …” he said, stopping when the knife point drew blood from his neck.
“Are you willing to die for your secret?” she said. “Drive.”
Sunday: Hard-Headed Woman and It’s Now or Never
M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal