Harry B. Sanderford
Harry B. Sanderford
with Matt Magda plot turns
By all appearances, Eddie led a quiet life. He attended Mathews High School where he was junior class treasurer. He dated Mary Lou Jennings and had a special spot to park his car at McDonald's when the gang went out for quarter-pounders, fries and chocolate shakes after basketball games. He liked how it angled them into the shadows where Mary Lou's hand lingered in his. He worked after school on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekend matinees AT THE BIJOU. Like I said, by all appearances, Eddie led a quiet typical teenage life.
Eddie was excited about going to work on this particular Tuesday because just yesterday his Super Spy Private Eye Finger-Printing Kit had finally arrived in the mail. He’d ordered it from the back of his Super Spy Private Eye magazine and he aimed to put it right to use. Chief among his duties AT THE BIJOU were: popping the popcorn, making sure the butter flavoring and nacho cheese dispensers were topped off, and that the napkin dispensers were never empty. Folks' fingers get good and greasy grubbing on a BIJOU Double-Feature Bucket.
On this particular Tuesday, fate was twisting a churn into Eddie's good news day. He'd hurried through the poppin' and had it all fluffy light and flyin' high the way Ms Kate had explained Ms Carrie favoured it. And God and the local Phantom knows Ms Carrie was the biggest popcorn clutching customer AT THE BIJOU ever did see. He liked her. She always tipped him an extra buck, leaned in and shared him somethin' scary about how she knew what she knew and then whispered, "Listen Popper, don't tell our Ms Kate I told you that. She likes a world where bad guys don't kill everyone off." How he laughed at that. Ms Carrie sure knew Ms Kate alright. So with a grin on his face and his duties easily covered all over the place, Eddie slid comfortably into the seat in the back red velvet row he favoured when bringin' Mary Lou around. More smoochability, y'know.
With an anticipatory sigh, Eddie slid this month's issue of Super Spy Private Eye from his hip pocket, smoothing it flat. Ms Kate said he could do what he wanted 'round the BIJOU when what he had to take care of was taken care of, just so long as he kept a watchful eye on things. She trusted him that way, and guldurn if he'd ever let her down. Now though, he wanted to go over the directions one more time on how to shake and spread powder from his Super Private Eye Finger-Printing Kit, tucked safe on the top shelf back in his locker in the staff room. The handy-dandy silver magnifying glass, in his other Wrangler pocket was waiting steady for Eddy to finally use it, and boy oh boy was he itchin' to do just that. Impress Mary Lou too with his deducing ways to figure a situation out.
While he was hunched over page 33, he could tell without much deducing powers at all that Ms Jeanette was waltzin' in to the theatre. Eddie tipped his touseled mop of hair along with the appreciative twinkle young man eyes shall ever hold for a real lady's graceful glide. Hers was always to the 9th row where she enjoyed all the action of reviewing every show, telling whomever would listen that life was like innings and you had to let the full game play out to really know the score. Eddie figured Ms Jeanette always knew the score. And like most others, he was fond of her caring ways.
"How are you keeping your grades up Eddie? Mary Lou treating you nice and sweet?"
He gave her usual quick wink a smug smile and a thumbs-up, remembering that thing his Mom said when sprayin' on perfume before a big dinner date with Dad. Even bein' a mom, she still knew how to let her eyelashes do their business and would say real soft when Dad came up behind her, "My Windsong will stay on your mind." Wonder if that's what Ms Jeanette had squirted all over herself. He could always tell when she was shifting seats, turning in her greets to other regulars AT THE BIJOU. It was a real pretty smell that went swell with how she laughed. All the other BIJOU folk liked that too.
THE SCREAM CUT THROUGH ALL HIS CAREFUL CONCENTRATION ~ more high-pitched than any movie sound could move around the surround-sound system that Mr Harry had set up to make folks' listening pleasure all the more jumpier. Mr Harry was like that too ~ always tryin' somethin' new out. Boy oh boy, man oh man, Eddie sure wished Mr Har was jawin' jokes in the staff room today, 'cause he woulda liked another sturdy feller handy to investigate the blood curdle of that freakin' sound. Yikes! Ms Jeanette was down front. He'd better jump into action and check things out!
The scream came from behind him so Eddie told Ms Jeanette to sit tight and sprinted up the aisle for the lobby. Bursting through the double doors he found Sugar scooping Milk Duds back into the box from the counter where they’d spilled. “Are you alright Ms Sugar?”, Eddie asked hoping to appear calm, something he never found easy to do around Ms Sugar.
“Other than scattering a brand new box of my favorite candy all over I’m fine. What the heck was that? Just about scared the pants right off me!” The image this conjured was not helping Eddie with his outward calm.
"Well if it wasn't you, and it wasn't Jeanette..." the boy detective thought out loud.
“Are you alright is maybe a better question? Why you look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Sugar was teasing but it hit them both at the same time.
“The phantom of THE BIJOU!” They aha-ed in unison.
Eddie bolted for the projection booth stairs. Sugar vaulted the candy counter and followed close behind. Eddie covered the red carpet two stairs at a time but Sugar was no slouch; he could feel her pretty close on his Nikes. Their gasp was collective. The greasy grisly scene on the floor before them floored them. A body sprawled face down. A tub of buttery BIJOU popcorn adding spill to sprawl, already on the congeal. Eddie's hand jutting towards the contorted body of what looked like or was the new projectionist was stopped in mid-jut to Sparky Denton's blue denim sleeve by Sugar's high pitch squeal.
"Don't you DARE touch Sparky, Eddie! Who knows what's happened here?! Call 911, c'mon hurry!"
Eddie whipped out his Droid as sexy Sugar's more motherly side kicked into gear, body-blocking his view, swift-glancing for a discernible clue, steering the boy clear of what appeared to be death by popcorn. The low hum of the projector accompanied the still rolling film, a 1945 rare noir cut of Detour, which Jeanette had requested before the regular crowds rolled in for Tuesday's packed-house Double*Feature. Long'ago heart-throb actor Tom Neal playing nightclub pianist Al Roberts let loose his cynical worldview snipe: "That's life. Whichever way you turn, fate sticks out a foot to trip you."
"Yep, Al, someone sure took a face-smack here", Sugar mumble-quipped back while her mind sizzled in fast-forward mode -- determining the most logical way to proceed, keep Eddie calm and both of them safe.
Eddie's thoughts, now that the dispatcher had assured him help was speeding on its way, were turning over the most logical way to proceed, to keep Ms Sugar calm and both of them safe. He couldn't suppress the grin though when Sugar couldn't suppress her habit to mimic movie stars. In perfect Ann Savage pitch, with hand to hip, she became Vera the hitchhiker: "Life's like a ball game. You gotta take a swing at whatever comes along before you wake up and find it's the ninth inning."
"THE 9th INNING! THE 9th ROW! JEANETTE!!", their thinking and their hepped-up voices aha'd unison once again, before Eddie's magnifier had a chance of a glance to hone in on the suspicious spittle around the sparkless Sparky to confirm his guess that suspicious could be malicious . . . The deducing duo were off on a tear down the stairs once again. Sirens were heard and sounding closer, but their heads and hearts were headed in another direction away from the main doors, back to the theatre.
Police, fire and paramedics poured through the front doors as Sugar and Eddie hit the bottom stair. Eddie pointed back up to the projection room shouting, “It’s Sparky, he’s up there!”, without breaking his stride. Sugar hit the double doors first and Eddie was through before they could swing shut behind her. In the ninth row Eddie picked up Ms Jeanette’s Mead Square-Deal journal from the seat with her favorite blue Montblanc Starwalker still clipped to the cover. A single drop of indigo fell from the pen and landing squarely on the armrest, mingled with the drops of crimson already there. Ms Jeanette was nowhere to be found.
* C * L * I * F * F * H * A * N * G * E * R * !
* AT THE BIJOU *
Please return to next Saturday's Matinee
for the next gut-gripping epic'sode!
" The Prints and The Popper "