Chuck Wendig's challenge at terribleminds this week is a genre mash-up. Using the random number generator to select my mash-ups, I have Whodunnit + Musical.
Deadline: Friday, 12th August, midday EST
Word limit: 2,000
"What," yelled Maury as he stomped out his umpteenth cigarette of the day. "You seriously want me to write a scene where chorus girls dance around a dead body? Are you mad? Who the hell is going believe anything like that?"
The Big Boss continued puffing on his cigar and waited for Maury to finish blowing off steam. As soon as Maury got to muttering under his breath, the Big Boss continued: "it's no different than usual. You write the story - a whodunnit - that's what you do, right? I'll send you a guy to write the songs and do the dance numbers. No problem!" and with that he dismissed Maury. Whistling up his chauffeur, the Big Boss headed towards his waiting Pierce Arrow series 33 limousine, his latest fluffy young blonde trailing in his wake.
Back in his office Maury made a call. But that receiver had soon been slammed down as he was reminded by his lawyer that he had recommended Maury not sign this contract with the Big Boss. Why? "Because there's no loophole" his lawyer's final angry words still reverberated around the office.
Maury took a sheet of paper from the drawer, put it into his typewriter and started to tap away.
- Who was the dead guy?
- Who benefitted from his death?
- Who didn't like him?
- Who did he make angry
- Who did he doulble cross?
- Who killed him?
But none of these questions helped get him to the point where chorus girls could conceivably dance around the dead body.
"For heaven's sake" Maury exclaimed out loud, "what I know about dancing girls could be written on the top of a matchstick." Muttering to himself, he continued: "Sure they're giving me a guy to write the song 'n dance numbers, but I still gotta make the story get them there". He needed girls, dancing girl and lots of 'em.
Grabbing his hat, Maury headed down to the Strip and went into the first bar where he could see girls. Buying himself a scotch, he sat down, pencil and notebook in hand and started to listen in to their chatter. Three scotch 'n sodas later, he read back his notes: silk stockings, Max Factor pancake base(?), red lipstick, Elizabeth Arden mascara, producers and their wandering hands, aching feet, shoes, shoes and more shoes, oh and a discussion on how to get hold of a bra designed by Howard Hughes for Jayne Mansfield.
Just before 8 o'clock, Maury settled his tab and headed home. Gertie greeted him with a kiss and gave a little sniff when she smelt the scotch on his breath: "you won't be needing your evening drink then" she said over her shoulder as she headed into the kitchen. Maury went to wash up, then sat down at the table which was already set for two. Gertie put a casserole dish down in front of him saying "help yourself sweetie" before disappearing back into the kitchen. She returned with a bowl of salad and a jug of iced water, pouring first Maury and then herself a glass. Serving herself she asked; "how you getting along with that play?"
Maury gave her the news about the changes the Big Boss wanted and taking out his notebook, related how he'd spent the last couple of hours. "Can I assume pancake base is some kinda make-up" Maury asked between mouthfuls. Gertie went to the bedroom and handed Maury something on her return: "you take the top off, twist the bottom bit, put some of that stuff onto you face and smooth it over your skin to provide a 'base'. You dust powder on top afterwards and top up during the day from your compact." "Thanks baby" replied Maury, silently acknowledging how lucky he was that Gertie understood about him needing to know about stuff first hand when he was writing. After dinner and whilst they were drinking coffee, Gertie said "so your murder victim's gotta be the producer?" "Not likely" retorted Maury, "way too hackneyed. And whilst it's all I've got so far, the producer is the money man and I can't make him the bad guy, even if he is. I don't see the Big Boss takin' kindly to that!"
For the next few afternoons and early evenings, Maury visited one bar or another along the Strip, where he listened to yet more girls. But he learned nothing new and was still struggling with the answer to his big question. Then Friday night came around. Now, every Friday evening, Gertie visited her mother, so Maury decided to have dinner early and to see if the late night crowd brought anything new to the party. For the first few hours, he struck out - zilch, zippo! As he was about to give up, a group of new girls walked in and demanded a jug of margaritas with six glasses. They were loud and sounded pretty darn unhappy.
Maury slid over to an adjacent table and bought himself another scotch 'n soda. Taking a chance, he sent over a second jug of margaritas with his compliments. Once they'd established he was married and not interested in any hanky panky, he was soon surrounded by girls sharing their tale of woe ... about their Russian choreographer. "He's an ex-ballet dancer" said one, "thinks he's still in communist Russia" complained another, "and the hours he expects us to work" cried out pretty much all of them. "But is he any good?" asked Maury, only to hear nothing but grudging responses in the affirmative. Maury went home realising that, although they'd complained, they knew they were working with the best. But still, he had the grain of an idea ... "what might happen if they weren't?"
Maury worked away at his play and had it roughly sketched out by the time the song 'n dance man arrived. Ronnie flicked through the script and didn't seem put out that the murder victim was - eh - him, or rather his character in the play. "Love the Russian connection," he enthused to Maury, "I can work in a classy ballet-esque number. And if the Big Boss springs for a male chorus, I could even have cossacks. It's absolutely heavenly Maury darling, thank you!"
Luckily, the Big Boss liked the script and agreed that Ronnie could have his cossacks. Soon, they were in rehearsal with the Big Boss's new blonde in the chorus. Although Maury had to be at the studio in case he was needed for last minute script changes, he'd already started working on something new. Life returned to its normal routine until one Tuesday morning. When he arrived at his usual hour of around 10, there were a couple of guys hanging around waiting for him. Maury recognised a gumshoe when he saw one, only question was whether they were official or freelance.
Flashing their badges at him: "Lt Winters and Sgt Swan, LA Police. Got some questions for you Mr Green." Well, that answered Maury's question, so he invited them into his office and set the coffee pot going. But before he could even pour himself a cup, the sergeant asked: "Mr Green, where were you last night between the hours of 8pm and 4am?" "Home, of course" said Maury. "Any witnesses?" the Lieutenant wanted to know. "Well, it was Friday night so my wife was out visiting her mother. She got home around 10.30." "Anyone who can confirm what time you got home?" queried the lieutenant. "I guess one of the neighbours will've seen me getting home. The nosey one at number 40 usually knows everything that's going on. What's this about anyway?" replied Maury, but they simply thanked him for his co-operation and left.
When Maury got home that evening, Gertie handed him a large scotch and confirmed: "the police came over and checked what time I got home last night. I saw them go talk to Mrs Cohen at number 40. she popped round later to tell me what they'd asked and to pump me fo information on what it was all about. What's going on Maury?" Maury had to admit that he was no wiser but promised: "I'll ask around tomorrow."
It took awhile, but eventually Maury found out. And what he heard struck him dumb. "It's that new show on at the Majestic" said Bob, the guy on the gate. "I heard that their song 'n dance man was found dead, in the middle of the stage." Driving past the Majestic that evening, Maury confirmed that it was - indeed - the show with the Russian choreographer. No wonder the police wanted a word.
The next day he drove by the Precinct and asked for Lt Winters. The Lieutenant invited him in: "what can I do for you Mr Green?" he asked cordially. Maury realised with no small amount of relief that his alibi must've checked out and settled down to tell him about that evening in the bar where he'd gotten the idea for his show. "Although we're still in rehearsal, there's always talk between the casts. So anyone could've heard the plot and gotten an idea. Here's a copy of our script" said Maury, dropping a copy on the desk before leaving.
A couple of days later, Lt Winters called to let him know that the female lead at the Majestic had been arrested on suspicion of the murder. The news went round the studio light wildfire and it was soon a-buzz. There were whispers a-plenty: "she's been having an affair with the choreographer and he dumped her", "he shamed her in front of the entire chorus and demanded she put in extra rehearsal time", "he'd stolen the leading man from her and she was wildly jealous". But the most delicious tit-bit? The murder weapon ...
Maury realised that the news coverage of the murder would make it a dead cert their show would draw big crowds and rushed to change his script. It could be seen as a bit tacky copying a real live murder case, but it was just too good not to use. Maury wondered what the Big Boss would think of his little blonde stabbing a man with her stilleto shoe ...