The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper
Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol Series Book 1 by Sally Carpenter
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Beatlemania is back and better than even in this revised second edition.
Former teen idol Sandy Fairfax finds that making a comeback can be murder! It’s been fourteen years since the pop star broke little girls’ hearts on the 1970s hit TV show Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth. But after years of obscurity, the 38-year-old nowhere man can’t land a gig anywhere except at a slightly disorganized Beatles fan convention in Evansville, Indiana. What looks like an easy job turns deadly when a member of the Mercy Marvels tribute band is shot and the local police finger Sandy as the prime suspect. The schoolboy shamus is back in action to find the culprit. All he’s got to do is get back past the fawning fans, shady vendors and a John Lennon wannabe who just won’t let it be. Help! It’s all too much for our bad boy hero who tackles the case with a little help from his friends.
The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper was a finalist for the 2012 Eureka! Award for best first mystery novel.
“Don’t leave, Mr. Farmington.” The devil detective blocked our path to the elevator. He jabbed his notebook at Bunny. “Your girlfriend?”
“She’s a friend, yes, and she’s a girl. But no, she isn’t my girlfriend.” I touched her arm. “Bunny, go to your room now.”
She took off her glasses and wiped her eyes with my handkerchief. “Will we have to call off the convention?”
“We’ll talk about that later. Get some sleep.”
“What about you?”
“I feel fine. Go on now.”
I turned to face the formidable flatfoot as Bunny slipped away. Braxton pounded questions at me as I rubbed my bloodshot eyes. I couldn’t concentrate.
“Look, detective, I’m exhausted. I’ve had a long day that started before sunrise three time zones ago.” I glanced at my wristwatch: nearly one in the morning. Pacific or Central time? I couldn’t remember if I had reset my watch after my flight landed. “Can this wait until tomorrow? I mean, later today? The body can’t get any more dead than it is now.”
Braxton glowered at me so hard that if looks could kill, he’d have a second stiff on the floor. “You claim the victim was still alive when you came in the room?”
I squeezed against the wall so the paramedics could carry out a stretcher with a black body bag strapped to it. As much as I wanted to look away, I couldn’t peel my eyes off the corpse.
“Did the victim do or say anything that might identify the murderer?”
Braxton waited, his pen poised over the notebook page. “Well? What was it?”
I licked my dry lips. I felt terribly thirsty. I knew Braxton would hate my answer.
“He said, ‘Rocky Raccoon.’”
Sure enough, he frowned at me. “Is that a joke?”
“No, sir. That’s exactly what he said.”
“Is that the name of the murderer? An animal? What’s a Rocky Raccoon?”
“It’s a song.” Bunny stepped up beside us as she closed the zipper on the pouch that hung from her waist. “By John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Paul sings lead. It’s on disc one, side two, track five of The Beatles’ 1968 double record ‘White Album,’ which isn’t the name, but everyone calls it that because it was issued in a plain white cover with no artwork. I have a 1978 French import reissue with the records in white vinyl.”
Braxton stared at her, too stunned to take notes, but I took it in stride. Fans possess encyclopedia knowledge of the minutest trivia.
“Thanks Bunny,” I said. “Please go to your room now. Everything will be all right.”
Bunny nodded and plodded toward the elevator. By now the crowd of investigators had cleared out, leaving the hallway eerily silent. A cop shut the door to the tainted room and taped yellow “do not cross” tape across the doorway, which was guaranteed to attract more attention from the guests than simply locking the door.
“That’s enough for now, Mr. Farmington.” Braxton tucked his little black book into his shirt pocket. I nearly leapt for joy at the thought he might finally leave me alone until he added, “But don’t leave town.”
“What do you mean, don’t leave town? In a few hours I’m booked on a flight back to Los Angeles.”
“Why are you in such a hurry to leave?”
“No reason, I . . .”
“All right then. Stay put.”
“What am I supposed to do in the meantime?”
He gestured at the walls around us. “This is a hotel. You’ve got a place to sleep.” With that he darted for the elevator before I could slip in a parting shot.
Alone in the hallway, I stared at the yellow-ribboned door for a moment. I didn’t want to ride the elevator with the dopey dick, so I trudged up a flight of stairs to my room. Once I was safely inside, I locked the hallway door and the windows and switched on all the lights as if the brightness would keep the killer away. The dried blood on my hands irritated me and I stepped into the bathroom to wash it off. I turned on the sink tap and tried to unwrap a tiny cake of stinky perfumed complimentary hotel soap sitting atop the faux-marble vanity. I fumbled and dropped the soap twice. As I scrubbed my hands, I puzzled over my predicament.
*A photo of me kissing a strange woman would hit the wire services by morning.
*A room clerk had found me alone in a hotel room, kneeling over the body of a dead man I hardly knew.
*My only clue to the killer’s identity was the title of a Beatles song.
I shut off the water, wiped my hands on the thin white hotel towel, and scrutinized my haggard reflection in the mirror over the sink.
My television show was never this cheesy.
The Sinister Sitcom Caper
Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol Series Book 2
Sandy Fairfax, former teen idol and star of the ‘70s hit TV show “Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth,” is now a middle-aged recovering alcoholic who realizes that making a comeback can be murder. He’s the guest star on “Off-Kelter,” a corny family situation comedy and the lowest rated TV show of the 1993 fall season. Before rehearsals barely begin one of the actors drops dead at Sandy’s feet. He investigates, enlisting the aid of two of his new cast mates: a dwarf and an animal actor. During his snooping, we meet Sandy’s ex, his parents and his teenage son, all with their own “situations” going on. During rehearsals Sandy also encounters a beautiful choreographer—could this be love? Will Sandy solve the murder before the Friday night taping of “Off-Kelter” or will the elusive killer cancel our hero before the final credits? This book was inspired by the author’s experience working as a tour guide/page at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood.
After rehearsal wrapped for the day, I grabbed some of the remaining goodies from craft services and rushed outside before anyone waylaid me. I started walking toward the parking lot, but then ducked down a side alley and doubled back to my trailer, now parked down the street from Stage 14. I hide inside the mobile dressing room and ate my impromptu meal. As I ate, I felt a twinge of guilt about Joseph’s involvement. Getting myself tied up was one thing, but if anything happened to my partner in crime, I’d hate myself. However, my plan looked foolproof. What could go wrong?
I took a short nap on the trailer’s couch and waited for the lot to close for the day. Under the light of a full moon, I left the trailer and hurried toward the ad building, careful to stay in the shadows of the empty streets. The studio had an eerie feel at night. After the hustle of the daytime activity, the evening’s quiet seemed disturbing. The street lamps, humming softly, cast a mellow glow over the lot. A light mist hung in the air. The temperature had cooled, and I shivered in my short sleeves. This was the time of day when the security guards often reported strange happenings on the lot. I expected to see Freda, the Stage 14 ghost, out for a stroll.
I met Joseph in the alley behind the administration building. He was lighting a cigar.
“Put that out!” I said. “Do you want someone to see us?”
“Who’s here to watch? Everyone’s gone home. That is, anyone with any sense.”
I checked my watch. “Okay, let’s get you in place before Ivan arrives.” And before my unwilling spy changed his mind and left. “Let’s go in through the fire door.”
With no lights shining from the windows, the ad building resembled a fortress. I reached up and grabbed the chain attached to the lower ladder of the fire escape. The steps pulled down, and I scrambled up. Joseph’s ascent was more like a crawl; the steps were set too far apart for his short legs. He had to pull himself up onto one step before tackling the next.
“What if Ivan catches me?” he said as we climbed. “He isn’t known for his good nature.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be here to help you.”
“Yeah, just like you helped yourself this afternoon when you were tied up.”
I reached the top level and waited for Joseph to catch up. I checked the time: seven-forty. I hadn’t counted on my partner taking so long. We were cutting this too close for comfort. I pushed the latch on the fire door—locked. I juggled the latch several times.
“Shouldn’t a fire door be unlocked?” I asked.
“Fire doors are for going out, not coming in. Any more smart ideas, Sherlock?”
Now I was determined to get Joseph inside if only to wipe that smirk off his face. He began his arduous descent down the steps and I followed. Back on the ground, we walked to the building’s front door.
“Open sesame!” Joseph pushed the door ajar. “Why did you make me climb those nasty steps when we could have come in this way?”
“We still can’t get inside Ivan’s office.”
At the end of the street three women pushed a large, wheeled canvas bin in our direction. I grabbed Joseph’s arm and pulled him behind the hedge that ran along the front of the building. I peered through the greenery.
“What gives?” Joseph did not sound happy.
“Shhh, keep your voice down. The nighttime cleaning crew is here.”
“Great. They can clean up and I can go home.” He started to move.
“No, wait.” I held out my arm to block his departure. “I have an idea. See that cart the ladies are pushing?”
“Back when I was doing concerts, I had problems getting past the fan mobs. A couple of times I sneaked into a hotel through the service entrance by hiding inside a laundry bin.”
“You’re suggesting I get inside that crate?”
“That’s right. You’re just the right size to fit.”
“I ain’t doin’ it.”
The three Latinas stopped the cart in front of the ad building and stepped away for a smoke. When they turned their backs, I picked up Joseph under his arms and set him down inside the cart, next to an assortment of spray bottles and jars of cleaners.
He sneezed. “This soap crud is killing my sinuses.”
“So stop breathing.”
I dumped a handful of clean white rags atop the dwarf to hide him. I ducked behind the hedge again and watched as the women snubbed out their cigarettes and returned. They rolled the cart up the handicapped ramp beside the front steps and inside the building. Moments later, a Porsche pulled into Ivan’s reserved parking space, followed by an SUV that parked nearby. Two guys, dressed in suits and ties and carrying large portfolio cases, got out of the SUV. They caught up with Ivan, shook hands all around, and made their way inside. I ran to the back of the building and found a dark spot beside the bushes where I could watch Ivan’s window. The only bad part of my plan was if Joseph did get into trouble, I had no way to rescue him.
The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper
Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol Series Book 3
38-year-old Sandy Fairfax is a former '70s teen idol and star of the TV show "Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth." Now he's rebuilding his career with a series of concerts aboard the SS Zodiac bound for the Bahamas. He makes amends with his estranged sister, Celeste, who is blind and also a musician, so she will join his performances. But their cruise hits turbulent waters when Sandy finds a dead body in his onboard dressing room. He investigates the colorful cast of suspects while avoiding an old flame and trying to ignite something with his beautiful choreographer. When Sandy gets too nosy, the bad guys throw him overboard. Will he sleep with the fishes or escape and unmask the killer at the ship's Halloween costume gala?
We took the elevator up a level to the Nocturnal Deck, home of the Gemini Café and Bar. In honor of its name, the little restaurant had two molded plastic chairs on each side of the square tables. A pair of waitresses served each guest. At this time of day, the clientele consisted of mostly older adults in quiet conversation with their tablemates—the young families and kids were no doubt by the pool. To my irritation, though, every table was occupied.
“Looks like we’ll have to eat in the dining room,” Cinnamon said.
“If we do, I’ll have to go and change clothes,” I said.
“Sandy, is that man waving at you?” Cinnamon asked.
Sure enough, the occupant by the back wall was signaling for us to join him. Aaron sat by himself at a table. No, not really alone—Moze was perched on his knee.
“Who is that?” Cinnamon asked. “Is that someone you know?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.” I said.
I wasn’t keen on having lunch with this guy and his doll, but maybe the three of us could eat quickly and be on our way. So, we sat, Celeste on my right (we used this seating pattern at the home dinner table so my left arm wouldn’t bump her as I ate), Aaron—with Moze—directly across the table from me, and Cinnamon next to him. The ventriloquist was halfway through his shrimp salad. I could swear that Moze gave me the evil eye as I sat down—that’s eye, singular, because one of the sockets in his face was empty.
The dummy turned his head toward Cinnamon. “Hubba hubba! This must be the tasty dish I ordered!”
Cinnamon, understandably, pulled back and stared at the doll. “What is that?”
I said, “Ladies, let me introduce Aaron Goldstein. He does a ventriloquist act on the ship. And that’s Moze. This is Cinnamon Lovett, my choreographer, and Celeste Farmington, my sister.”
“Hi, everyone,” Aaron said. “Thanks for joining me. On these cruises it gets tedious to eat alone every day.”
“Alone!” Moze exclaimed. “What am I, sawdust? I’m your best buddy. And why do you want to associate with these lowlifes anyway?”
“I beg your pardon!” Celeste said.
Aaron forced a smile. “Don’t mind Moze. He’s always joking.”
“And Aaron boy isn’t,” the dummy replied. “Especially when he’s on stage.”
Celeste whispered in my good ear, “Why is that man so rude?”
“He’s a dummy.”
“I know that, but why—”
“He’s a ventriloquist’s dummy.”
A set of identical twins, two waitresses in short skirts and sailor shirts and hats, stopped by to take our orders. The gals wanted hamburgers, fries, salads and soft drinks. I skipped the burger and fries for just a salad and unsweetened iced tea. I still hadn’t worked up a taste for diet soda.
When the waitresses left, I said, “Aaron, can my sister take a look at Moze?”
He looked confused. “Sure, he’s right here.”
I hated having to explain my sister’s disability. You’d think her sunglasses would have given the guy a hint. I nodded at Celeste, pointed to my eyes and then at hers, hoping the knucklehead would get a clue without me having to draw pictures. I guess he did, because his face lit up with a modicum of understanding. I took my sister’s hand, reached across the table, and placed her fingers on the dummy.
She felt the wooden head and its natural hair. “It’s missing an eyeball.”
“Hey, watch it, toots,” Moze said. “Don’t go poking the other one out.”
“What happened to the eye?”
“I don’t know,” Aaron said. “I didn’t notice it was gone until this morning. Maybe it fell out in the lounge after the show last night. Don’t worry; I have spares in my cabin. I’ll fix you up, Moze, when we’re finished eating.”
“I should hope so, or you’ll have to introduce me tonight as the Cyclops.”
Celeste said, “That’s amazing. Why did you bring that thing in here?”
As I’ve said before, my hermit sister is a bit fuzzy on conversational skills.
But fortunately, Aaron didn’t seem offended. “Moze goes everywhere with me. We’re a team. That’s why we work so well together.”
Moze jumped in. “Oh yeah? What about the time you were shacking up with that Jodie creature? All I saw was the inside of a box. Can’t tell me that witch was better company than me.”
Aaron looked at Moze. “I had to spend time with her. She was my wife.”
“But not for long!” Moze sounded ecstatic. “Her cutting out was the best thing that ever happened to us!”
Good thing the waitresses arrived at that moment. The food provided a distraction from the Aaron-and-Moze show.
The Quirky Quiz Show Caper
Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol Series Book 4
Former teen idol Sandy Fairfax is a guest panelist on a TV game show—and the first category is murder! When his kid brother, Warren, is framed for killing a college student, Sandy makes it his duty to track down the thug before the police move in. After all, Sandy did play a detective once on a hit TV show. Sandy will get right on the case—right after he visits his kids; fights with his ex; woos his hoped-to-be girlfriend, Cinnamon; and convinces his parents he should be the special entertainment at a black tie gala designed to raise funds for his father’s faltering orchestra. All this while he and his biggest fan attempt to “Raise The Stakes” on a rigged quiz show where––wonder of wonders––the murder victim had recently been a contestant. Sandy’s ready to pull out some of his long blond hair as the game points and the suspects pile up.
When I arrived at the Raise the Stakes soundstage on the Mammoth lot, a young guy wearing a headset greeted me and introduced himself as Gary, the assistant director. He walked me to the set. Crew members were busy checking the lights and running color checks on the cameras. Gary showed me my spot. Facing the stage, the four celebrities sat to the right of the emcee’s podium at center stage. My combination desk/chair was farthest to the right. A plaque with my name graced the front of the desk.
The contestants would stand behind the panel to the left of the emcee’s spot. The four screens on the panel lit up with each person’s first name and prize winnings. At the back of the set hung a huge panel that read “Raise The Stakes,” with upward-pointing arrows in place of the i and the two ts. Every piece of the set was painted in bright primary colors and overloaded with rows of multicolor light bulbs. Without the magic of TV lighting, though, the set looked garish and cheap.
“Why don’t you take your seat so you can get comfortable,” Gary said. “We don’t want you to panic when you start moving.”
I parked my butt on the cushioned seat and placed my Styrofoam coffee cup in the convenient cup holder in the desktop in front of me. The desk also came equipped with a microphone to pick up my golden words during the show.
“Please fasten the safety belt,” Gary said. “We don’t want you tumbling out.”
Safety belts in a chair? This might be more dangerous than I’d anticipated. “Do I need a crash helmet as well?”
The AD laughed a bit too loudly. He crossed to the control panel to the side of the set, just out of camera range for those watching at home. A crewmember, whose job was to work the chairs, stood ready behind the controls.
Gary announced, “Going up!”
The crewman pushed a lever a few inches. My chair rocked and rose three feet. The cup jiggled and I clutched it to keep the coffee from spilling. The safety belt dug into my lap. After a moment, I went up another yard and the pillar wobbled. I do well with heights, but something about this situation unnerved me. Another few feet up and I peered over the front of the desk to the floor below, wondering if I’d left the earth’s atmosphere.
“How high does this go?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” Gary replied. “None of the contestants has ever made it to the top.”
“Just for kicks, why don’t you take me all the way up?”
The crewman shoved the lever to the top of the panel. My chair shot up faster than a hit record climbing the charts. I clutched the edge of the desk as it vibrated. I wondered if this thing had passed any kind of safety inspection.
“You’re at the top, Sandy. That’s as far as it goes.”
I had an eagle’s-eye view of the entire set, the seats for the studio audience, and the offstage wings. Above me, a gold-painted metal ring, about a foot in diameter, hung on a chain from the peak of the arch. I reached up, hoping I’d be lucky enough to snag the big prize on air. I have long arms, mind you, and I stretched as far as I could, but the ring stubbornly remained more than two feet beyond my grasp.
“Hey! I can’t reach the ring.”
“You’re not supposed to,” said Gary. “We haven’t started the game.”
“I mean it’s too high. Nobody can get it except maybe Wilt Chamberlain.”
“Hang on, Sandy. I’m bringing you down.”
The crewman wasn’t so gentle on the descent. I dropped to the floor faster than an elevator with a cut cable. Maybe I should take some Dramamine before airtime. I quickly unsnapped the seat belt and jumped out of the contraption before I plummeted into the basement.
I picked up my coffee cup and hurried over to Gary. “How are we supposed to get the ring if it’s out of reach?”
The AD patted me on the back. “I wouldn’t worry about that, Sandy. Nobody ever reaches the top. Even the best gamers miss a question or two. Care for another cup of coffee or something to eat?”
“No, thanks. It’s never a good idea to get on a roller coaster with a full stomach.”
The Notorious Noel Caper
Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol Series Book 5
It’s Christmastime in Tinsel Town, and there’s plenty of ho-ho-homicide at the soon-to-open Santa’s Magic theme park, where bodies are dropping like snowflakes. Former pop star Sandy Fairfax has a killer job—he’s the emcee for the televised Miss North Pole beauty contest--er, scholarship pageant. But will the beautiful contestants make his girlfriend jealous? Or will she join him in his sleuthing? The deadly Christmas season begins at a celebrity bowling tournament when a pinsetter plops down a body instead of the pins. Throw in surfing Santas, a seductive executive's wife, a sleazy tabloid editor, an egotistical movie rival and a gift-wrapped death trap, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Surfing Santas was yet another one of the park’s soft opening events. Pro surfers and celebrities had been invited to gather shortly after sunrise at Zuma Beach in Malibu for a morning of fun, surfing, live music, a free waffle breakfast and a charity toy drive.
It just isn’t Christmas until you’ve seen a dozen or so Santas executing whip turns, floaters, cutbacks and aerial stunts on the Pacific Ocean. One energetic Santa managed to ride the tube of a big wave. Why does the jolly one need reindeer when he could travel the world by surfboard?
Then a Grinch stepped in to ruin my holiday fun.
Doug Shaw, easily visible in his eye-blistering lime green neon wetsuit, was hot dogging for the cameras—standing on one foot on his board, flailing his arms and engaging in other unsafe silliness. I paddled as far away from him as I could.
After a while, an especially large wave arrived. I popped up, ready to roll. But this wave was faster and stronger than any I’d ridden before. I crouched a little and focused, adjusting my feet to keep my balance. Then Doug snaked in front of me, paddling so he blocked my way. Besides being bad manners, such a maneuver was dangerous for both parties. We were isolated from the others surfers and far from the shore.
“Behind you!” I yelled. Maybe the dumb head was too wrapped up in his camera posturing to notice me. Doug popped up and glanced over his shoulder. He must have seen me, but he kept going, right in front of me.
“Move!” I shouted.
Doug shifted just a bit to my right. I barely navigated a left turn to get around him. I wasn’t experienced enough to try a fancy escape or quick enough to clear him. Just as I started to pass, Doug stuck his left arm straight out and I ran right into it.
I struggled to keep my balance, but the current beneath my feet was too powerful. My board went to the right, and I flew left. I took a deep breath and smacked into the water. Even in a wetsuit, the ocean is COLD! I tried to relax my muscles so I wouldn’t break my ankles if my legs hit the bottom. I tried to surface, but the wave pushed me along. I couldn’t swim against the current—I could only go with the flow and pray that I could soon get some air. I was swimming so hard that I’d forgotten the cardinal rule of protecting my head. The water ebbed enough for me to poke my head above the surface. As I did so, the wave kicked my board back at me and the slab clunked me on the head. The blow dazed me for an instant, but not hard enough to sink me. I was treading water. My board was floating a few feet from me. But every time I drew near, the water pushed the hunk of plastic farther way. My Santa hat was lost at sea, and so were my chances of getting safely to land. I was too beat to swim back to shore without the support of my board, but the darn thing was out of reach.
“Need a hand?”
I looked up into Santa’s concerned face. The sun glowed like a halo around his head. One of the surfing Santas had seen me fall. He was riding his board next to me. I didn’t know who he was beneath that beard, but I didn’t care. The Good Samaritan knelt on his board and reeled in my board. Then he pulled me atop the thing.
“Can you make it to shore?” he asked.
I nodded. I paddled, and so did my Santa savior, riding alongside in case I needed help. Together we arrived at the shore. Santa got me on my feet. I stuck the nose of my board into the sand to stand it upright. I wanted to find Doug so I could clobber him, but the throbbing in my head held me back. I touched my forehead and then looked at my fingers—they were covered in blood. I felt woozy, and Santa caught me as I staggered.
Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier living in Moorpark, Calif.
She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school, her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award. “Star Collector” was produced in New York City and served as the inspiration for her first mystery series.
Carpenter also has a Master of Divinity and a black belt in tae kwon do.
She’s worked as an actress, college writing instructor, jail chaplain and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures.
The books in her Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol cozy mystery series are: The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper (2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel), The Sinister Sitcom Caper, The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper,The Quirky Quiz Show Caper and The Notorious Noel Caper.
The Psychedelic Spy cozy series is comprised of Flower Power Fatality and Hippie Haven Homicide.
She has short stories in three anthologies: “Dark Nights at the Deluxe Drive-in” in Last Exit to Murder; “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” in Plan B: Omnibus and a Sandy Fairfax adventure, “The Puzzling Puppet Show Caper,” in Cozy Cat Shorts.
She penned chapter three of the CCP group mystery Chasing the Codex.
Her website is http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com. Reach her at facebook.com.sally.carpenter.54.