I spent Valentine’s Day with Greg Fry. As two of L.A.’s most eligible bachelors, we can’t have dates for Valentine’s Day because, invariably, the ladies get the wrong idea and we run the risk of breaking hearts. (This is, of course, a nice way of saying that two losers couldn’t score companionship on the most romantic night of the year, so we wound up hanging out with each other.)


Two guys discussing radio…Greg in his earl 30s, me nearly 40. (Why do you have to be in your late 30s to be “nearly 40?” If you’re just past your 40th birthday, aren’t you as “nearly 40” as if you were 38? I think so and since it’s my Editorial, I’m nearly 40.) Anyhow, after several bottles of beer and as many glasses of wine, what did we wound up doing? All together, radio geeks:


Listening to airchecks.


Only people in radio understand. It’s a disease. When two or more radio freaks are gathered together at someone’s house with alcohol involved, we wind up listening to airchecks.


Afterwards, the discussion turned to high-energy radio and why stations abandoned that delivery. The next day, between three-putts, I posed the same question to Scott Shannon and Dan Kieley. Nobody had a definitive answer.


Top 40 radio abandoned its high-energy approach several years ago…not because it wasn’t working, but because PDs just opted to go another way. No high-energy Top 40 was beaten in the ratings by a more “mellow” approach. So, what happened?


Blame the consultants. It’s an easy out…and not exactly accurate…but close enough. Consider my reasoning: Most consultants are hired by management. Very few managers are comfortable with high-energy radio. Too many negatives are associated with that delivery.


Consultants don’t program, they consult. They don’t listen, they analyze research. Most consultants try and reduce negatives from their client stations. Subjective research says the audience hates too much clutter, too much talk and screaming deejays who rap over the beginning of songs.


When the consultant suggests eliminating these negatives, the biggest fan is the manager…who doesn’t like these things either.


There you have it.


Subjective research is extremely dangerous and basing decisions on this information should only be done by the PD. Allow me to shed light on some subjective research: When KIIS, Z100 and KFRC were dominating their markets, what were the biggest complaints from listeners? Too much clutter, too much talk and stupid deejays who rapped over the intros to records.


However, these same listeners were the core audience They like those stations because the stations were fun to listen to.


It’s an interesting point to note that clutter…meaning too many commercials…was always the first thing mentioned, yet no manager cut the commercial load because the audience didn’t like it.


To their credit, consultants also insist that their client radio stations should sound “fun.” But a consultant isn’t programming the station. It’s up to the PD to take the advice of a consultant, then make programming decisions based on what makes the radio station sound best.


Be careful of subjective research. It’s dangerous…particularly when used by the wrong people. Consider subjective research used by NBC for the top-rated Seinfeld show. Sixty-two percent of the television audience doesn’t watch the show because they don’t like the jokes and can’t identify with the characters. Thirty-eight percent watch the show because they think the jokes are funny and identify with the characters. A consultant might suggest changing the jokes and characters to attract a larger audience. The head of programming might tell the consultant to get bent.


It’s interesting to note that KIIS and Z100 began losing listeners about the same time high-energy was abandoned. I know other factors were involved, but humor me for a second. Both of these stations employed the top consultants to no avail. Both stations began regaining listeners when Kieley and Tom Poleman re-energized the sound. It’s also interesting to note that WXKS Boston and WFLZ Tampa have continued to dominate their markets over the years by never wavering from their high-energy approach.


Does it work today? Our panel of “experts” says, “Yes.” To those consultants and managers who moan that older demos would desert, may I point out the most successful 25-54 station in the country: KRTH Los Angeles. KRTH is filled with hih-energy promotions like “The Big Kahuna,” stupid phrases like “King Kong Cash” and jocks who talk up every vocal and hit every post. It isn’t just the music, or every Oldies station would share KRTH’s billing.


The audience wants to identify with a station. They…and the station…want to have fun. Consider these factors when you’re studying subjective research. Every successful station has negatives associated with it. The more successful, the more negatives…also the more positives. Weigh the criticism against your programming judgment.


Remember, if 90% of the available audience doesn’t like your station, you’ll have a 10 share, a bonus, a new contract and your choice of teams at the Network 40 Summer Games in Lake Tahoe June 25-27.


Go home, break out some airchecks, then return to the station and kick it up a notch!

Stupidity Is Timeless


I got a note from Mark McKay last week. We worked together at KFRC San Francisco, B95 Kansas City and Y106 Orlando. Mark is on the air in Kansas City and told me he was listening to old airchecks of KFRC to find bits and breaks he could use because, as he said, “…stupidity is timeless.”


It’s the best phrase I’ve heard yet to describe the radio and record business. Nowhere is stupidity more relevant than when analyzing conventions. 

Forever, all of us in our industry have been making the tiresome trek to one convention or another that promises to deliver speakers, workshops and hardware that will make our industrial lives easier. In the entertainment business, where hyperbole is next to Godliness, no statement falls as far from its promise.


Stupidity is timeless. Witness last week’s Gavin convention. Now don’t get me wrong, my good friend Dave Sholin does a great job. The convention is well-attended. It certainly is the only large convention you should attend. R&R’s convention (speaking of stupidity being timeless) will be worthless. But large conventions are becoming more of a pain in the ass instead of brain food that is promised. 

Gavin does a good job. But its success is the very thing that serves to its detriment. It’s just too big.


And can we please have a moratorium on panels? When is the last time anyone said anything worthwhile during a panel discussion? If one of the panelists happened to drop a pearl of wisdom, would anyone in the audience be awake to hear it? 

The Top 40 panel was by far the most interesting, but my legs still went to sleep. And it wasn’t because of the speakers involved. All are knowledgeable programmers who have wisdom to share. But when five people are vying for air time, you wind up with a lot of dead air. Besides, stations and markets are so different now, what is perfect for one successful station in a major market won’t work for another station in a different place. Instead of listening to Tom Poleman and Dan Kieley on the same panel talking about apples and oranges, wouldn’t it be better to listen to Tom Poleman speak for 30 minutes about what makes Z100 successful, then have the opportunity to listen to Dan Kieley take us through the same routine with KIIS? Having both on the same panel (with two or three other successful programmers) doesn’t serve the audience…or the PDs who are involved.


Panel discussions are kind of like programming by committee: There are a lot of good ideas, but by the time the ideas get out, they don’t matter any more. 

The chief complaint about conventions is that panels are boring. Yet most conventionas schedule more panels. That’s like doing call-out research and upping the rotation on songs that are showing the most burn.


Gavin manages the best large convention in our industry. But is it too large to serve the needs of those who attend? Do you not wind up seeing everyone, but spend quality time with no one? 

Can you tell I’m leading up to a point? Ah, yes: The 1998 Network 40 Summer Games in Lake Tahoe June 25-27.


There are no panels. No boring speakers. No meetings you have to doze through. And even more exciting…no awards ceremony that lasts longer than it takes to download The Beatles library on the Internet. 

There are only 200 people…100 from record companies…100 from radio. It’s a ration you can’t find in most radio station lobbies…much less the conventions.


Does that mean you learn less? Hardly. What other setting provides you the opportunity to forge relationships with your peers on a one-to-one basis? Where else can you compete in games of skill and fun with and against others in our industry? 

Would you rather listen to a boring panel discussion or ask specific, face-to-face questions to the PDs and radio executives you only glimpse from a crowd at a convention?


It’s a slam dunk. (We’ve added that to the competition this year!) 

Stupidity is timeless. For two years, we did our research to find out what the industry wanted. Last year, Network 40 took the positives, ditched the negatives and dared to do something never before attempted.


Guess what? It worked. The inaugural Network 40 Summer Games were the most successful and talked-about event of 1997. And we’re “stupid” enough to do it again this year. 

The Network 40 Summer Games is the most exclusive gathering of radio and record people in the history of our business. It’s exclusive for a reason. You can’t be all things to all people. We don’t try. By offering one-on-one opportunities with those in our industry, you have the opportunity to forge new, personal relationships that will last long after the Summer Games become history.


Those who believe relationships are made through casual dinners with 50 or more people are deluding themselves. And if there’s someone more important than you at the table, you’re totally out of luck. 

The Network 40 Summer Games provides the intimate setting that will make it easier to expand your relationships. Plus, we’ve all heard the stories about your athletic prowess. You can talk the talk…but can you walk the walk?


Stupidity is timeless. 

So is brilliance!

Shout At The Mirror


We live in a strange world…and it’s getting stranger by the minute. Baseball players spit on umpires. Basketball players try to kill their coaches. Everyone seems intent on blaming their problems on someone else. 

In the history of society, never have so many bitched about so much. Passing the buck has become the national pastime.

It’s difficult to find an individual who will admit to a mistake. When is the last time you heard someone say: “I’m sorry. I screwed up.” 

No. It’s never our fault. It’s the mail. It’s our assistant. It’s the other guy. It’s never us.

This concept of blaming someone else has always been part and parcel of the radio and record business. There are too many easy targets. The GM can always blame the PD. The PD can blame Arbitron or the Sales Manager. The record company A&R department can blame the promotion department. Promotion can blame A&R. When all else fails, record companies can blame radio. 

But it’s a fact that somebody is responsible. Identifying that person (or group of people) and getting the person to take responsibility is another story.

The entertainment industry, be it motion pictures, professional sports, records or radio, is filled with those who are quick to blame others for their own inadequacies. Accepting responsibility and affecting change to make ourselves better isn’t something that’s done often. Failure is something that’s always someone else’s fault. These feeling of inadequacy usually take the form of loud griping. Sometimes, lawsuits are threatened or instigated. In a few instances, someone steps way over the line. 

Which brings me to the subject of this Editorial.

Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil and Mick Mars, the four mediocre musicians who comprise the group, Motley Crue, have never been hesitant to cross the line. As a matter of fact, this group of posers has gone so far over the line that they’ve almost become an invisible blur across some distant horizon. 

Recently, they’ve set a new record for jumping over the line…and this time, it could be impossible for them to jump back.

Motley Crue was big for about a minute. It’s too bad the group couldn’t just fade away like one of their mid-chart records. But no, they must go kicking and screaming into their good night continuing to be “as bad as they want to be.” The difference is, Dennis Rodman can still rebound. Motley Crue can’t even bounce.

In a recent tirade, Nikki Sick blamed all of the band’s problems on Elektra Records Chairperson Sylvia Rhone. When describing Sylvia, he also used the “C” word. 

Nikki, boy, get a grip.

The Crues latest album, which Nikki predicted would sell around three million, is stuck at the 250,000 mark…a feat considered remarkable by most in the record industry, given the lackluster songs that litter the CD. The majority of those sales came in the first week, stimulated by thousands of dollars in marketing money spent by Elektra. Diehard fans wanted to see if Motley Crue could make a comeback with Vince Neil’s return as the lead singer. 

It seems no one was impressed.

Nikki pretended to be the Pied Piper (who had a better voice) and led a recent audience in a half-full concert venue in the singing of “Fuck Elektra.”

Nikki has never been approached to become a member of MENSA. 

Nikki Sixx has lost his mind. Blaming the record company for lack of sales is past ridiculous. Record companies are in the business to make money. I’ve never heard a label head say, “We’re investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on this CD an we’re really hoping it doesn’t sell a copy. We want it to stiff.”

Nikki wants to blame someone for the lack of sales of Motley Crue’s latest album. So he calls the president of his label a derogatory term and asks his fans to “Fuck Elektra.” I’m sure it made everyone at the concert want to rush out and purchase the CD. Trouble is, Nikki’s fans spent all their money on booze, drugs and bail money. So they fuck Elektra (and Nikki) by not buying the album. 

Through it all, Elektra Chairperson Sylvia Rhone has reacted in her typically classy fashion. As usual, she has remained above the fray. However, let me give Mr. Sixx a warning: I know Sylvia a lot better than you do. Keep using the “C” word and the “N” word and one day you’ll find you’ve made a huge mistake.

Hey, Nikki. Here’s a news flash: Sylvia Rhone and Elektra Records aren’t your problem. Instead of blaming her, why don’t you look in the mirror and at the others in your group and ask why you don’t write better lyrics and play better songs? No record company in the world can prevent a hit from happening (why would they want to?)…anymore than it can make a stiff sell…as illustrated by the latest Motley Crue record. 

Please give all this ranting at the moon a rest. You’re boring. Go back into the studio and cut a hit record. Instead of putting Sylvia Rhone down, seek her input. She knows what she’s doing. And despite what you’ve said, she would love for you to have a smash.

You’ve got two choices: Update your tired act and become a part of the future…or be buried with your mediocre past. 

‘Twas The Week Before Christmas



Twas the week before Christmas and all through the nation,

Record companies shut down and stopped calling stations.

Stock options were hung on the chimney with care,

In hopes a bull market soon would be there.

I was excited, Gary was calm,

We just had come back from a bite at The Palm.

When out in the atrium there came a loud moan,

Gary said, “What in the hell’s going on?”

We dashed through the doors and what did we see,

But reindeer and Santa crashed into the tree.

We rescued the S-Man and brushed off his face,

“I can’t make it,” he said, “you must go in my place.”

“Line up the elves,” Gary yelled, getting mad.

“Come Dina,” I shouted, “Get Stephanie and Brad.”

Michelle will coordinate, Art, come along,

And Kris will be happy to say we’re all wrong.

Tiff claims a window seat so she can say,

“Bye-bye” when she throws Jeffy out of the sleigh.

EMT Greg-boy will keep us alive,

And we’ll all hear Kristen as she backseat drives.

“Don’t worry,” said Gary, “We’ll let her rip.”

We jumped in the sleigh and he cracked the whip.

“On Lazy, on Stupid…is that how it goes?”

“And Rudolph, you showboat, turn off your nose!”

“What’s in the bag?” Gary asked with a smile.

“Presents,” I answered, “for all those worthwhile.”

For Andrea and Danny, a Siamese Cat.

For Kilgo, a comparison with that of a gnat.

More money and power for cool Phill Costello.

And Father Palmese will be a rich fellow.

Curb’s crossing Country with our dear boy Ric,

A new watch for Blair…will that make him tic?

A lion for Boulos so he will be brave,

Chocolates for Lisa to help with her Crave.

A new staff and new hits for our man, Catania,

For Tipp and Reprise, another Platinum Enya.

One more big box set and a smash for Greg Thompson,

A partner for Darus so he won’t feel lonesome.

A new Island President so Joe has a boss,

More adds for Geslin, no matter the cost.

For Brenda, a baby, oops she’s got that already.

In ’98 Nancy will find her a steady.

Air conditioning for Ellis, the Mercury’s rising.

A way for Steve Leeds to stop the conniving.

For Michael, a virgin, and no, that’s not funny,

Look what’s for Stuey…the head of a bunny!

A turn that is worth it, for Ritchie-boy Bloom,

Get well to Becce, it can’t come too soon.

A computer that’s not Jive for our friend Jack Satter,

For Burt and the WORK Group, the rest of the platter.

For Karmen, our sister, an antique Whurlitzer,

And I’m going to get the coveted Pulitzer!

“That’s all well and good,” Gary laughed with much glee,

“But there’s one big question…what’s in it for me?”

I searched in the bag for any more riches,

But all I came up with was ashes and switches.

“You don’t have to worry,” through the wind Gary called,

“I don’t have a gift? Why I’ll just take them all.”

Gifts or no gifts, may I say on this date…

“Merry Christmas to all…and a great ’98!”

Rewind III


Lieutenant Johnson and Keith were back at KAKA.

“I hope you didn’t take offense about what I told the newspapers,” Case said.


Johnson ignored the statement. “Talk to me about pre-recording.” 

Case smiled. “Everything on KAKA is live. That’s what has made us successful. With satellite broadcasting and syndication, many stations are partly pre-recorded, meaning, there is no live announcer when you’re listening. KAKA doesn’t do that.”


Johnson’s eyebrows knitted together in thought. “When I hear listeners playing contests or making requests, they’re on the air live?” 

Case sat down behind his desk and began arranging loose items on his desk. “I didn’t know you listened.”


“You didn’t answer my question,” Johnson said evenly. 

Case took a breath. “Callers aren’t aired live…they are recorded and played back to prevent profanity.”


“And a DJ couldn’t record his show?” 

Case gave the inspector a condescending look. “I see where you’re going and you’re way off base. You think Fast Eddie recorded his show and killed his wife while the tape played?” Case chuckled dryly. “It’s impossible.”


Johnson reached into his pocked for a cigarette, then waited for Case to stop him. “Impossible?” 

Case took a deep breath. “Under our format, the announcer opens the mike and talks after almost every song, giving the time, temperature, call letters, station promotions, live commercials and such. You can’t record that in advance. Even if one did, others would know about it.”


“How so?” 

“Because of our union situation, it takes several people to make a show run. We have the disc jockey, who talks on the radio; his engineer, who has to open the mike, play the songs and commercials and anything else that goes on the air, and there is the producer and phone operator who  helps coordinate the show and there’s another engineer who makes copies of all commercials that go on the air.”


Johnson was struggling to follow. “So?” 

“So,” Case continued, “to record his show, a DJ would have to get his commercial and music logs early, then clear the session through the production department, arrange time to use the production studio to make the digital recording, get the production engineer to oversee the session, then have the on-air engineer to play the digital recording back during his show. The producer would also have to know about it and keep quiet. All highly unlikely and against regulations. Plus, the production studio is constantly in use. There’s just no way to make it happen.”


Johnson lit his cigarette. “What if an announcer did it before his show on the weekend?” 

The production studio is locked on weekends and no production engineer is available.”


Johnson looked around for an ashtray, saw none and tapped his ashes on the carpet. “It sound complicated.” 

“Too many people would have to be involved.”


The Lieutenant switched gears. “The other night, James had the studio door locked from the inside. Is that normal?” 

Case drummed his fingers on his desk. “He doesn’t like disruptions. While he’s on the air, the door stays locked from the inside.”


“How long has your daughter been working as his request operator?” 

It was Case’s turn to frown. “Two-and-a-half months. She answers his phones and produces his show. Why?”


Johnson ignored the question. “Can I get a copy of Fast Eddie’s show last Saturday night?” 

Case hesitated, then answered. “Yes. I’ll have a cassette dubbed and sent to your office this afternoon. Is there anything else?”


“Yeah,” Johnson said. “Is there anyone here one the weekend while James is on the air, besides your daughter and the engineer?” 

“Just those working before and after him.”


“Any way to know exactly what time these people get here?” 

“They must sign in with the guard,” Case said. “They have to go through the gate to enter and leave. It’s the only way in and out on the weekend and after business hours.”


“I want to see those sign-in sheets.” The Lieutenant turned and led Keith outside. “Take a jog up to James’ apartment. Time it. I’ll meet you back at the station.” 

Keith took off and Johnson got in his car and headed back to his office. As he drove up California Street, the Lieutenant let his mind wander. With so many leads to check out, it was hard not to make a decision about a particular case. Sometimes, not making decisions was more advantageous than trying to reach a specific conclusion. Keeping an open mind, letting the facts find you rather than trying to dictate an ending was hard, but important process.


This was why he wanted to treat the James murder as an individual case, rather than adding it in with the rest of the Saturday Night Specials. He was starting fresh, free from the influence of conclusions drawn from the other investigations. The same person could ultimately be responsible for all the murders, but for the present, he wanted to treat Rhonda James differently. 

It was also the reason he wanted to focus the investigation on her husband, even if the facts pointed elsewhere. In most homicides, the victim knows the perpetrator. More often than not, it is a relative who does the deed. And husbands are more often responsible for killing their spouse. He wanted to follow the usual trail, if only to eliminate James completely as a suspect.


He worked throughout the day, chasing leads and forensics reports without any major breakthroughs. It was after five by the time he reached the Marina. 

“Hello, Joe,” he said to the old man in the weathered captain’s hat behind the desk in the harbor master’s office.


The grizzled face barely acknowledged the Lieutenant’s presence. “Somebody was giving The Crimestopper the once-over earlier today.” 

Johnson frowned. The Crimestopper was his boat.


“I let some guy look over the 50-footer that’s for sale down the dock,” Joe went on. “He paid more time to yours than the one for sale.” 

“Maybe he wants to make me an offer. Did you get his name?”



“What did he look like?”


The old man stared at the Lieutenant through eyes that were slits. “Don’t exactly recall, Medium height, build, looks.” 

Johnson shrugged it off and headed down the dock. “If you see him again, let me know.”


He walked down the gang plank and stepped over the rope onto his 42-foot Hunter. It was his pride and joy…his only hobby outside of work. 

As he jumped into the cockpit, he saw a newspaper stuck under the hatch. Someone had forced it under the latch to make sure he would see it. He squeezed it between his fingers to make sure nothing was hidden inside the folds. Satisfied, he pulled it free and shook it open. It was a copy of that morning’s Chronicle, the one he had read earlier in his office. The article about the murder investigation was circled in red.


He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stick up. He reached into his coat and pulled out the .38 caliber revolver he kept on his hip and went through the boat carefully. 

After making sure all was in order, he shook off the uneasy feeling and took the boat out into the bay. He raised the main sail, but kept the diesels running. There wasn’t enough wind to move powerless. Today he didn’t care. The water calmed him and took his mind off his job. It was all about the wind and water…nothing else mattered.


The chilly wind whipped across the bow and blew against his face. He smiled into the elements. He decided, as he often did, to spend the night on the water. There was a perfect spot behind Angel’s Island that sheltered him from the wind. He anchored there often. It took him about forty-five minutes to make it to his favorite spot. He pulled in the main sail and put the engines in neutral. But even as he worked to get the anchor set, he couldn’t quite shake the uneasy feeling that had settled around him when he first heard someone was looking at his boat. Although he was surrounded by dark water for hundreds of yards in every direction, he had the strange sensation that he was being watched. 

He looked around and saw nothing…not even another boat was close. He took a deep breath and headed down into the galley to make his dinner.


High above the bay, on the roof of a small apartment building in Sausalito, the man lay flat, staring through binoculars. He had followed the progress of the boat from the time it left the marina until in anchored off the island. Usually, he used the powerful binoculars to look into the windows of other buildings that dotted the landscape. But tonight had been different. 

The man looked at his watch. It was after six. Quickly, he sipped the binoculars into their case and hurried down into the night. He had to hurry or he would be late.


* * * * * *


Johnson lit his first cigarette of the morning and stared through the smoke at Keith. Captain Donovan was in the office and made a big deal of waving the smoke away. 

“You know, that’s against regulations,” the Captain barked. “You’re going to get us all into a problem if you keep it up.”


“What do we have?” Johnson asked, ignoring the Captain. He felt great. There was nothing like a night on the water to make him feel totally refreshed. 

“We talked to everyone at the station about Fast Eddie. Most of the people like him, but everyone thinks he’s too cocky. Also, he fancies himself a ladies’ man, always flirting with the women at work. He took out the receptionist several times until she found out he was married. Anyhow, for the past two months, he’s been seeing someone. Nobody knows who it is, but he’s told almost everyone at the stations that he was in love. He’s been quite vocal about getting a divorce. All of this was before the murder, of course.”


Johnson whistled softly. “Well, well. On one hand he’s telling us there was nothing wrong between he and his wife while he’s telling other people he’s getting a divorce. The plot thickens.” 

Keith checked his notes again. “Also, I timed the run from KAKA to Fast Eddie’s apartment. Ten minutes round trip if you hustle.”


They were interrupted by the intercom. “There’s an Edward James here to see you, Lieutenant,” the voice said. 

Johnson’s eyebrows jumped toward the ceiling. “Speak of the devil.” He pushed the intercom button. “By all means, show him right up.”


Less than a minute later, an obviously distraught and angry Fast Eddie was ushered into the office. He glanced quickly at the other two men, then bored in on Lieutenant Johnson. 

“I’ve got to talk to you right now.”


Johnson motioned toward his superior. “Caption Donovan, this is Fast Eddie James.” He watched the men quickly shake hands. “You already know Detective Keith.” 

Eddie put both of his hands on the desk and leaned forward. “Mr. Case told me you’ve been asking questions about my work habits. He said he thinks you suspect me of killing my wife.”


Johnson said nothing. He fixed Fast Eddie with a level stare. 



“Well, what?” Johnson snorted. 

“Do you think I killed my wife?”


Johnson twisted his lips into a comical, mocking expression of surprise. “How could you kill your wife? Weren’t you doing a radio show at the time of the murder?” 

Eddie’s face was bright red. “You know the answer to that question. Of course, I was on the air. Tell me what’s going on!”


Johnson stubbed out his butt and exhaled the smoke from his last drag. “Suppose you tell me. On the one hand, you tell me you and your wife were happy, yet everyone else thinks differently. Suppose you tell me why your work habits are different on Saturdays. And suppose you tell me about Suzie Case.” 

Keith’s jaw dropped. This was a twist they hadn’t discussed.


Eddie went apoplectic. He opened his mouth a couple of times to respond, but no sound came out. Finally, he managed to form a sentence. “Get off my case, Lieutenant. My wife is brutally murdered and you’re blaming me.” His voice cracked with emotion. “Losing her makes me want to die. I can’t eat…I can’t sleep.” 

“You’re really choked up aren’t you,” Johnson said. “So choked up you aren’t missing any of your precious radio shows.”


Eddie stepped back. “That’s not fair,” he stammered. “I’m going back to work to keep from going crazy. I sit alone in the apartment and all I can think about is Rhonda.” 

Captain Donovan stood up behind him. “I think we’ve gone far enough.”


Eddie’s face turned a brighter shade of red. “I demand some answers.” 

It was Johnson’s turn to lean over the desk and get in Eddie’s face. “Then ask the right questions. Are you a suspect in your wife’s death? The answer is yes. Just about everyone in this city is a suspect, but you’re at the top of the list because you had motive and access. I’m trying to find out who killed your wife and so far, everything points to you, except you’ve got an alibi. Besides, if you’re in the clear, why are you so nervous?”


Eddie didn’t back off. “I’m not nervous, Lieutenant and I didn’t kill her. I don’t’ want an ego-maniacal cop trying to pin something on me because he’s inept at his job and can’t find the real killer. You’re questions to my friends and the people I work with are making my life more miserable, if that’s possible.” 

“You’ve been watching too much TV,” Johnson laughed.


“Maybe,” Eddie snarled, “but you better find the killer because if you try to blame this on me, I’ll go on the radio and tell my audience. I’ll give you more heat than you can stand.” 

“Wait a minute, young man,” Captain Donovan jumped in. “I can understand you’re upset but it isn’t wise to threaten the Police Department.”


Johnson waved him off. “Let it go, Captain. What’s Fast Eddie’s audience going to do? Picket police ineptitude at the next Nirvana show? It’s not a threat. It’s a joke.” 

“We’ll see,” Eddie yelled. “I’m hiring a lawyer.” Hs spun away and slammed through the door.


The Captain watched him go, then turned back to Johnson. “What was that all about?” 

Johnson shrugged. “I don’t know, Frank. There’s something about this one I can’t figure. Did Fast Eddie do it?” He shrugged again. “There’s something that isn’t right about that boy and when I find out what that is, I think we’ll find out who killed his wife.”


“Do you think it is possible that he did it?” 

“Not hardly, but I think it’s possible he knows who did it and even had a part in it.”


“Where did this Suzie Case come in?” 

Johnson grinned. “I just took a shot in the dark. Actually, I know he’ll tell the manager about this conversation and I want to pull his chain.”


Captain Donovan headed out. “Keep me informed,” he called over his shoulder. 

* * * * * *


“Not here,” the girl said as she fell back on the bed. This really gives me the creeps.” 

He smiled down on her. “You didn’t think it was so creepy when we were getting undressed.”


“That was in the living room. Now we’re in the bed.” She shivered. “Let’s go back.” 



She was startled and slightly scared at the sound of his voice. 

“In here,” he said, pushing her flat on the bed. “Right now.”


She struggled briefly with him, but he was too strong and her protestations were half-hearted at best. She gave it one last try. “Get off me.” 

He fell on top of her and she stopped fighting.


“I wonder if this is the way it happened with her?” she whispered only to herself as she stared at the ceiling. 

Fast Eddie smiled against her neck.


* * * * * *


Lt. Johnson and Keith were taking a ride. The office had them both claustrophobic. 

“We interviewed the female guard on a hunch, Lieutenant and she had some interesting things to say. The first of which had to do with charging us with sexual harassment.”


Johnson gave Keith a quick glance. 

“We got past that pretty quickly. But the guard and Mrs. James had a couple of intimate conversations. Mrs. James was evidently lonely and would come down to the lobby to chat from time-to-time when her husband was doing his show. The guard says Fast Eddie was on a pretty fast track, according to his wife. Mrs. James told her she suspected that Eddie was seeing other women, but she couldn’t him. About a month ago, he asked her for a divorce. Mrs. James said no and that if he pushed her on it, she would do her best to ruin his career. She told the guard Eddie had threatened her and she was scared.”


Johnson bit on his lower lip and digested the information. “Did Mrs. James say how she was threatened? Did she mean physical harm?” 

“She didn’t say. The guard was more interested in Mrs. James than her husband.”



Keith nodded.


“Anything ever come of that?” 

“According to the guard, after she let Mrs. James know she was interested in romance, they never spoke again. Maybe that’s why Mrs. James said the guard gave her the creeps.”





Johnson pulled his car into a space next to a park overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Both men stopped to enjoy the scenery, staring across the bay, each lost in his own thoughts. 

“We’re missing something,” Johnson said.


“We’re missing a lot,” Keith agreed. 

“Do you have those sign-in sheets from the guard house with you?”


Keith rummaged through his beat-up briefcase and found them. 

Johnson looked over the pages carefully, page by page. “There’s something strange here. Every Saturday afternoon, Eddie and his engineer, Dennis King, arrive at the station no later than 4:45. On the weekdays, James gets to the station around 6:30 and King about 6:45.” He glanced at Keith with a quizzical look on his face. “Why do the two of them get there so much earlier on Saturdays when, according to the boss, there is less to do on the weekends?”


Keith held up his hands. 

Johnson went back to the papers. “Who is Joanne DeLaney?”


“She’s the switchboard operator.” 

“I thought Suzie Case answered the phones.”


“She answers the request lines, Lieutenant. The station has a switchboard for business calls. It’s the number you use to call Mr. Case.” 

“Why does she work on the weekends? I’ve never known a company to have a receptionist or phone operator work weekends. What kind of business does KAKA do on Saturdays?”


“I don’t know.” 

Johnson picked up his cellular phone and punched out a number.


Keith slapped his leg. “I’ve got it, Lieutenant.” 

Johnson held up his hand. “Mr. Case, please. Lt. Johnson calling.” He waited only a few seconds. “Mr. Case, this Mrs. Delaney, switchboard operator, exactly what does she do on Saturdays?”


He listened, the repeated what he heard so Keith could share. “Answers the business lines for any emergencies, tells people to try the request lines and takes complaints. What complaints?” 

Again he listened. “Can you tell me if there were any complaints about Fast Eddie’s show this past Saturday? Sure I’ll hold.” He gave Keith the signal to go ahead.


“Eddie gets to the station early on Saturdays so he can spend time with Suzie Case. She’s the new girlfriend.” 

Johnson shook his head. “Nice try, but the math doesn’t work. Miss Case doesn’t come in to work until 6:45 on Saturdays.”


Keith made a face as Johnson went back to the phone. “Only one complaint? Well, nobody’s perfect. Thanks for your help.” 

He disconnected. “Fear not, detective, your theory might not be too far off. Fast Eddie got only one complaint last Saturday night. Someone was upset because at 9:15, he was telling the city that it was clear and hot outside, but at 9:15, according to the caller, it was raining.”


Keith snapped his fingers. “I remember. The sky just opened up suddenly and it poured for about 20 minutes.” 

“I remember getting wet running into the apartment with you.”


“What does it mean?” 

“Maybe nothing.” Johnson started the car and backed out into traffic. “Go over that tape again and pay particular attention to the weather forecasts. Check the weather service and get me rainfall and temperature readings in 10 minute increments. And I want to see Miss Case and the engineer, what’s his name?”


“Dennis King.” 

“In my office. On the double.”


* * * * * *


One hour later, Dennis King was slouched in a chair looking across the desk at the Lieutenant. Johnson tried to keep his face impassive as he studied the man, but it was difficult. The engineer had to be in his late 30s, tall and skinny as a rail. He had his dark, greasy hair combed back across the sides of his head into a ducktail. Long, black sideburns creased each cheek, outlining the angular face, making it seem whiter and thinner than it was. A toothpick hung between two lips that were as thin as the rest of him. It was if he was auditioning for a part in a 1950s rock musical. 

Johnson hated him on sight. And the attitude that came with him. “I’m trying to solve a homicide here and I’m having a big problem. I’ve got a person with a motive, I believe a good one, but he’s got an alibi. I need your help.”


King moved the toothpick to the opposite side of his mouth and smirked. “I don’t know how I can help and even if I could, I’m not sure I would. Cops have never done nothing for me.” 

Johnson nodded. “Let me put it to you in a way you can understand, Mr. King. You can either cooperate and try to help,, or I’ll begin looking at you as an accessory to murder. If you know something and aren’t forthcoming, that can make you as guilty as the person who did it.”


King chewed on that for a second. “Look, there ain’t anything I can tell you that will help you, but I’ll answer any questions you have.” 

Johnson was surprised that the man had given in so quickly, given his initial attitude, but he went on. “Why does Fast Eddie record the nine o’clock hour of his show every Saturday night?”


King almost lost the toothpick. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

Johnson let out a quick laugh. “Of course you know what I’m talking about. You help him do it. I want to know why.”


“Fast Eddie doesn’t record his show. It’s all done live. Recording is impossible.” 

Johnson bored in. “Why do you and Fast Eddie arrive at KAKA two hours before his shift begins on Saturday?”


King painted the sneer back on his face. “We spend the time going over ideas for the next week. Sometimes we play bridge. Other times we sit around and talk. Since when is it a crime to come to work early?” 

Johnson stared coldly at the skinny little man. “The reason you and Fast Eddie come in early is to record his show, or at leas the nine o’clock hour. If this isn’t what happens, then explain to me why last Saturday, between nine and ten o’clock, Eddie announced five times that the weather in San Francisco was clear and warm when, in fact, the city got almost two inches of rain in that one hour and the temperature fell from 71 to 60 in just under 45 minutes? How is it possible for a DJ to give incorrect information about the weather when the temperature and atmospheric conditions are provided from the National Weather Service on an LED right in front of him?”


King’s eyes shifted around nervously, but he didn’t crack. “This happens all the time, Lieutenant. Listen to some of the other shows. There aren’t any windows in the control room. We don’t know what the weather is like outside. Most times, the weather conditions run twenty to thirty minutes behind the actual read-outs. Generally, the announcers write the temperature down at the start of each hour and just repeat it. Just because something is in front of them doesn’t mean they see it. They’re busy with other things and often on the phone.” 

Johnson leaved back in his chair and put his feet on his desk. “That’s interesting, Mr. King. When I spoke to Fast Eddie a little while ago, he told me he read the temperature of the LED that hour. He said the information must have been incorrect, but you know something? The Weather Service keeps a computer print-out of all readings. I checked the KAKA computer logs for Saturday and the gauge was showing rain with falling temperatures.”


Johnson tried to imitate King’s smirk. “Here’s how I’ve got it figured. Eddie decides two months ago to kill his wife and he figures out the perfect plan. The two of you practice taping his show until you get it perfect. Last Saturday, you digitally record the show, punch a button and it plays on the air. Eddie leaves the station, kills his wife then comes back and finishes his shift. He’s got the perfect alibi. Only he didn’t figure on a little rain. How am I doing so far?” 

King didn’t answer the question.


Johnson sat up in his chair. He was working on a hunch. There was certainly no hard evidence to support his suppositions. He needed to crack the engineer because he had nothing to book anyone on. He played the bluff. “Okay, let’s try this one. You can either give me a statement right now or I’m booking you as an accomplice to murder.”

King pulled the toothpick out of his mouth and stared at the gnawed tip for a moment. “Book me. I want to talk to a lawyer.”


Johnson’s heart sunk. He thought he had King on the edge. “Have it your way.” He hit the intercom button. “Keith, come here please.” 

Almost immediately, the office door opened and Keith entered with Suzie Case. When King saw the girl, he jumped up.


“Will you show Mr. King to a phone, detective?” Johnson said. “But before you do, take him downstairs and book him for murder.” 

King whipped his head around. “Wait a minute.”


“Get him out of here,” Johnson snapped. 

“Stop, Lieutenant.” Suzie Case interrupted. “I’ve got something to say.”


“Don’t say a word, Suzie,” King hissed. “I’ll have a lawyer here in less than ten minutes.” 

“Get him out of here.” Johnson watched as Keith pulled the man down the hall, then he turned his attention to Suzie Case. And it was an easy task.


She slumped down into one of the chairs, lifted her hands to her face and began sobbing. “I can’t believe all this is happening.” 

Johnson handed her a box of tissues he kept on his desk. “Suppose you tell me everything.”


She looked up at him, tears streaming down her cheeks. “It’s not what you think.” She dabbed one of the tissues against her eyes. “Eddie started recording his show because of me.” 

Johnson just listened. It was obvious she wanted to talk. There was no need for him to ask questions, and to do so might inhibit her. He waited quietly for her to tell her story.


“When I came to work at KAKA, my father warned me about Eddie.” She managed a shaky smile. “Everyone warned me about Eddie, but I’m a grown woman. My father treats me like a child, but I’m not. I knew about Eddie’s reputation, but I didn’t care.” She stopped and stared hard at him. “My father would kill me if he thought I was going out with Eddie.” Tears rushed back into her eyes. “There isn’t any way to keep this a secret, is there?” 

Johnson shook his head sadly. “No.”


She clasped her hands in her lap and looked down at the floor. “Eddie and I hit if off frm the start. He liked me, I liked him. We started seeing each other and the next thing I knew, we were in love. We were getting together after work on Saturdays, then during the days of the week. But my father and his wife started asking questions about why we were both coming in later on Saturday nights, so we would just meet in the daytime on weekdays. Eddie asked Rhonda for a divorce and she freaked. We figured we should cut back on our meetings, because she might be having him followed, and that’s when Eddie came up with the idea of taping his show so we could use that hour to be together.” 

She stopped for a second to gather her thoughts. “I made copies of all my father’s keys so he and Dennis could get into the production room to make the recording. All he did was record his voice. Dennis would then just drop it in between the records and commercials. Eddie and I would spend that hour in my father’s office.”


“So I was right?” Johnson said, almost to himself. 

“Yes, but last Saturday night, Eddie was with me the whole time.”


Johnson frowned. “He was with you for the entire hour?” 

“Except for the time he went out to get my present.”


Johnson perked up. “About fifteen minutes. He had to go out to his car and get it. When he went outside, the guard almost caught him. He had to wait to get back inside without being seen.” 

That was cutting it close, Johnson thought, but it was still enough time. Besides, the girl could be wrong about how long he was gone.


He called Keith back in. “Take Miss Case down and get a statement. And bring King back in here.” 

He waited for the engineer to be brought back to his office, using the time to gather his thoughts. When the man was once again sitting across his desk, he smiled.


“Mr. King, the way I see it, you’re between the rock and the hard place. Miss Case just gave us a statement. We know about you and Fast Eddie recording his show. You can either come clean with me and help me put an end to this investigation or you can keep up your act and be a part of a conspiracy to commit murder.” He paused dramatically. “It’s your choice.” 

King leaned forward in his chair. “I had nothing to do with any murder, but if I tell you what I know, I’m in trouble. If I admit I helped Fast Eddie record his show, Case will fire me and I need that job.”


“If we book you as an accomplice, you’re going to lose the job anyhow.” 

King’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t guess I’ve got a choice.” He paused for several seconds, then began speaking softly. “Every Saturday night, I would help Eddie record his voice breaks for the nine o’clock hour of his show. He and Suzie would spend the hour in her father’s office. I would keep the door locked from the inside until he came back. But I had no idea he was going to kill his wife. He made a joke about it, but…”


Johnson sat up straight. “What?” 

King twisted uncomfortably in his chair. “He had been seeing Suzie for a couple of months and he told me he asked Rhonda for a divorce. When she said no, he said he guessed he was going to have to kill her. He was joking…and least I thought he was. I didn’t ay any attention to what he said. Eddie was always going off.”


Johnson picked up a pencil and made a few notes. “Anything special about last Saturday night?” 

King wiped at his mouth. “Eddie and I had an agreement that I would keep the coor locked from the inside until 9:50. At exactly 9:50, he would meet me at the door. And he always did, until last Saturday night. At 9:50, I went to the door and he wasn’t there. I waited until 9:55, then called him on the intercom in Case’s office. After a couple of trys, he finally answered. I asked him where he had been and he told me that he had been waiting at the door, but he wasn’t. I checked several times and he wasn’t there.”


“Why did it take you so long to talk?” 

King leaned forward on his elbows. “I didn’t want to lose my job, but more than that, Eddie and I are friends. I didn’t want to see him get into any trouble. I really couldn’t believe he would do something like this…and for the record, I still don’t believe he did it. He couldn’t have unless he and Suzie Case are both guilty. He was with her.”


Johnson looked at Keith. “Type up his statement and let him sign it.” 

“Should I book him?”


King’s entire body tensed. 

Johnson let him sweat for a moment, then said, “No, but tell Mr. Case to meet us at the radio station at seven o’clock.” He looked at his watch. “That’s in an hour. I don’t want any problems when we get there to arrest Fast Eddie.”


* * * * * *


It was 7:30 by the time Lt. Johnson and Keith arrived at the radio station. Case was waiting for them in his office. They made no move to sit down and Case didn’t make any small talk.


“Maybe you can tell me what’s going on, Lieutenant. Dennis King didn’t show up for work tonight, then I find out from my daughter that you had both of them in for questioning. You need to tell me what’s going on.”


Johnson looked at Keith, then back to the manager. “I’m here to arrest Fast Eddie for the murder of his wife.”


Case leaned back against his desk. “What?”


“You heard me. You want to bring Fast Eddie back here or do we arrest him while he’s on the air?”


Case pulled on his lower lip for a second. He made no move to leave the office. “Why don’t you arrest him while he’s doing his show? The entire city is aware of what’s been going on with this case. We might as well let them in on the whole thing live as it’s happening.”


Johnson glared at the man. Something about the case continued to bother him. Even when he thought he had it all wrapped up, part of him was saying it wasn’t right. Case’s suggestion made the feeling worse. All of these people were crazy.


“Let me get this straight. One of your employees is suspected of murdering his wife, your daughter is involved and you want me to arrest him on the air because it was give you some publicity? Is that what you want? Publicity?”


There was a far-away look in Case’s eyes, as if he was already planning the press release. “Everyone will know about it soon enough anyhow. I don’t believe you can prove that Fast Eddie did it, so everything will work out. Besides, it would make for an exciting show.”


Johnson shook his head slowly back and forth. “You disgust me, Case. All of you. A woman was brutally murdered and all you can think about is getting better ratings for KAKA.”


Johnson glowered at Case for a full minute, but the man didn’t back down. He held the Lieutenant’s gaze. Keith watched his boss, waiting for his next move.


The beep of the Lieutenant’s mobile phone broke the tension. Johnson reached inside his coat pocket and pulled it out.


“Lieutenant Johsnon.”


He listened for a few seconds.


“All of them?” Johnson gave Keith a wink. “We’re on our way.”


He put the phone back in his pocket and headed through the door. Keith followed right behind him. Case caught up with them in the corridor.


“What’s going on?”


“We’re leaving.”


“What about Fast Eddie? Aren’t you going to arrest him?”


Johnson shook his head and kept walking.




“I changed my mind.”


They were in the car and headed for the police station before Johnson shared the information he got from the phone call. “Mason’s men got a break. The caught a man trying to abduct a woman in the Financial District about an hour ago. The guy confessed to all the murders.”


“Is it our man?”


Johnson nodded. “Evidently. He says he killed four women in the past four weeks.”


Keith let out a heavy sigh. “I thought we had the DJ dead-bang.”


A frown stitched its way across Johnson’s forehead. “You know, I had a funny feeling about this thing with Eddie from the start.”


Keith turned his head. “You could have fooled me. I still can’t believe how you put this thing together with the recording and all. I thought this guy planned the perfect crime, yet you figured it out.”


Johnson smiled. “The only crime he committed was having an affair with the boss’ daughter. That’s going to cost him dearly.”


Keith scratched his head. “I was sure he did it.”


“I thought I had drawn an inside straight, too,” Johnson agreed, “but like I said, something about Eddie Killing his wife just didn’t fit. Even when I thought we had him nailed, it never felt right.”


The Lieutenant pulled the car into his parking spot and both men hurried into the Precinct. Sergeant Mason met them as they were getting out of the elevator.


“We got him, Lieutenant.”


Johnson shook his hand. “Good work, Mason. Where is he?”


“In the interrogation room. We were waiting until you got here to get an official statement.”


“How did you catch him?”


“Blind luck,” Mason snorted. “A couple of patrolmen caught him trying to grab a girl in the parking lot across from Bar None. When they cuffed him, he starting singing about our four murders.”


“Just like that?”


Mason grinned. “Just like that. He seems to be glad we caught him. He’s a convicted felon. He just got paroled from prison on a manslaughter beef a couple of months ago.”


Johnson walked into the interrogation room. Three gray walls rose from the tiled floor to the ceiling. The fourth wall was covered by a two-way mirror. Other officers watched through it from the adjacent room.


A long table took up the middle of the room. On one side sat two detectives. Sitting across from the was one of the largest men Johnson had ever seen.


The detectives got up. Johnson took one of their seats. He got a cigarette and offered the suspect the pack.


A large, meaty hand reached out and pulled on one of the filter-tips. While Johnson held out his lighter, he studied the man.


Huge was the operative word. If the man stood up, he would be seven or eight inches past six feet and would weigh in well above 250. Muscles bulged from his arms and neck. The guy was in good physical condition.


“Darnell Lewis?” Johnson asked.


The eyes looked up. “That’s me.”


“I’m Lieutenant Johnson.”


Darnell almost smiled. “Nice to know you…I guess.”


“Have the other officers read you your rights?”


This time Darnell did smile. “I’ve been read my rights. I understand my rights and I wave them. Let’s just get on with it.”


Johnson looked down at the folder Mason had given him. The suspect spoke softly and fluently. That was out of context.


“What’s the story on these murders, Darnell?”


“I did them all.” The voice was without emotion.


“Why, Darnell?”


“Might be strange to you, Lieutenant, but I want to go back in the joint. I can’t make it on the outside.”


It wasn’t strange to Johnson. He had heard it before. A quick check of the man’s rap sheet and it was easy to see why he couldn’t make it on the outside. He’d been locked up off and on since he was 16.


“Maybe I don’t buy it, Darnell.”


The man frowned. “What?”


“Maybe you’re copping to the murders just for the publicity. It happens all the time.”


Darnell took a long drag from the cigarette and slowly shook his head. “Not this time.”


“You murdered all four of these women?”


Darnell nodded.


“When was the first one?”


Darnell took another drag. “Four weeks ago Saturday. I grabbed a hooker working at the Hyatt on Union Square.”


“What color hair?” Johnson asked, going for something that wasn’t in the papers.


Darnell thought for a moment. “Blonde, but she was wearing a red wig.”


“Why did you rob her?”


“I didn’t. I left her purse right beside her. Besides, I looked in it. She didn’t have a lot of money.”




Johnson listened as the suspect described the victims. He was right on target. This was their man.


“What about last Saturday?”


Darnell leaned back in his chair. “A dark-haired Asian woman near Chinatown.”


Johnson snapped his head around and looked at Keith. Keith shrugged his shoulders.


“I left her body in a dumpster.”


“Wait a minute,” Johnson jumped in. “What about the woman in the apartment building?”


Darnell stared at the police officer for several seconds, then narrowed his eyes and shook his head. “Nope, I didn’t do anyone in an apartment building.”


“Come on, Darnell, the blonde woman on Bush Street. You killed her in her apartment.”


Again the big head shook slowly. “I didn’t do that one, Lieutenant.”


Mason leaned across Johnson’s shoulder. “You told us you killed four women on four Saturday nights in the Financial District.”


“I did,” Darnell said. “I just didn’t do the one you’re talking about.”


“Keith,” Johnson snapped, “check missing persons for the woman Darnell just described.”


Keith jumped up and left the room.


“Lieutenant,” Darnell said, “if it’ll make it easier on you, I’ll cop to this one, too. But for the record, I didn’t do it.”


“You’ve helped enough, Darnell,” Johnson said. He motioned to one of the other officers. “Book him.”


Darnell stood up and put his hands meekly behind his back, waiting for the cuffs. One of the detectives accommodated him.


“I appreciate it,” Darnell said.


“Don’t be thanking us so quickly, Darnell,” Johnson said flatly. “You killed some innocent people just because you’re spoiled bastard. If you wanted to go back inside, why didn’t you rob a store or something? No need to kill anybody.”


Darnell shrugged is big shoulders. “I wanted to make sure I was in for good. Then I got no worries for the rest of my life.”


“It might not be a long life, Darnell,” Johnson told him. “You don’t do life for multiple homicides. You’ll be getting the death penalty.”


Darnell smiled. “The biggest cause of death on death row is old age, Lieutenant.”


Johnson had no answer. The cops pulled on Darnell’s arm and escorted him out of the office.


“Sorry, Lieutenant,” Mason said.


“No need to apologize, Sergeant. It was a righteous bust and cleared four murders. It also ends the publicity about the Saturday Night Specials. Good job.”


Keith came back in. “There’s a missing person report on Sandi Louie. She’s Asian and has long, black hair. She was last seen late Saturday afternoon.”


Johnson drummed his fingers on the desk. “Damn.”


Keith waited a few moments. “Are we going back to the radio station?”


Johnson’s reply stopped him short. “Nope. I’ve got something else I want you to work on.”


* * * * * *


He left Keith with specific instructions. He also told him to get a new warrant for the arrest of Eddie James from the District Attorney, one they could serve the following day. Now he was alone in his car, alone with his thoughts.


It was a typical San Francisco night, foggy and chilly, the moisture of the low clouds tearing on his windshield, making him use the wipers to clear away the mist. He rolled down his window and listened to the click of the wipers and the sound of the tires cutting through the water on the pavement. The drive home wouldn’t take long.


He lived only 10 minutes from the office in Pacific Heights. He tried not to think about the case, his job or his life, concentrating instead on the simple task of driving. It was an elementary diversion, like concentrating on breathing. Driving was a habit. So habitual, in fact, that often he went from one place to another without ever remembering exactly how he did it. In times like these, he concentrated on the obvious things to make the usually ordinary task of driving one that encompassed his total concentration, preventing any other thought from entering his mind. It was the only way he could completely tune out. The exercise was something he had stumbled upon early in his career and now he was a master of its implementation.


The view of the bay from his high rise apartment was magnificent. The fog hung over the city, blocking out the stars to most of the inhabitants living below. From his vantage point, however, he could look over the fog to where is dissipated at the water’s edge, out onto the bay.


He threw his overcoat on the couch and walked into the bedroom, stripping his clothes off on the way. He fell heavily on the bed and stared at the ceiling, willing himself to sleep, trying to make his mind a blank.


It didn’t work.


Was it his ego? They had been so close earlier. Then, when Mason arrested the other man, he thought he had been wrong. Now it looked as if Rhonda James’ killer was still on the loose. Were his earlier feelings correct? Now that more time had passed, the original doubts he had about the cast against Fast Eddie returned. Why hadn’t he arrested him when they were in the radio station earlier? Would he have gone through with the arrest if Mason hadn’t phoned? He recalled the doubts he had while he was standing in Case’s office.


Did he really believe Fast Eddie was innocent? Although he had a nagging feeling that something was missing, was it really based on his experience or was he trying to make something more out of the case than was really there? Didn’t he have it pretty well wrapped up? Didn’t everything fit perfectly? Hadn’t he been a genius to figure it out?


If all that was true, then what was wrong? Or was anything wrong? Should he get up right now and go back and arrest Fast Eddie? By waiting longer, what did he hope to accomplish?


Johnson rolled over and slammed his fist into the pillow. He had to rid his mind of the doubts that plagued him and believe in his instincts. In the age of computers and psychographical sketches, he was still of the old school…the one that taught you to believe in your instincts. But sometimes, indeed it was seldom, but sometimes, his instincts were wrong. The acid test of a good cop was to know when and what and who to trust…facts or instincts. It was easy when everything fit. When everything didn’t, he would spend nights staring at the ceiling, attempting to find the switch that would turn off is thoughts and let his mind and body rest.


This was one of those nights. The puzzle was almost complete, but until he found the one, missing piece, it wouldn’t be right.


* * * * * *


Back at KAKA, the guard slipped silently back through the gates. He opened the door to his little house and sat down behind the small desk, warming his bones against the chill outside. His thoughts went back over the past couple of hours and he smiled. He loved his job. He loved working nights. Both gave him cover for what he called his “urges.” Nobody knew about those “urges” except him. They had almost been his undoing in Sacramento, but he had retired and moved just in time. Now, he was starting fresh in new surroundings. Nobody would ever know.


He frowned when he looked at his hands. He needed to be more careful. Quickly he took out a handkerchief and wiped away all evidence of his acts.


* * * * * *


Johnson walked through headquarters the next morning, greeting everyone with a smile on his face. Keith wiped it off when he got to his office.


“The Chief called a press conference this morning to announce the arrest of Darnell Lewis.”




“So, somebody leaked the news about us going to arrest Fast Eddie last night and reporters have been screaming for a statement from you since seven this morning.”


“I’d better talk to the Captain.”


Keith grabbed him by the arm. “No time. The press conference is going on right now. The Captain said he would see you when it was over.”


As if on cue, Captain Donovan walked in. He gave Keith a stare and the detective disappeared through the door. He switched his stare to Johnson and kept the high beams on for a considerable time.


Johnson fell in the chair behind his desk. “Come on, Captain. What’s up?”


The Captain slipped into one of the chairs in front of the desk. “Don’t dance with me, Tim. I’m not in the mood. I’ve already spent an hour in the Chief’s office and another 30 minutes with the press. You left here last night to arrest Eddie James for the murder of his wife and you didn’t. Why don’t we start with that and work forward. And while you’re explaining, you might drop in why you didn’t answer your home number, your cell or your pager last night and this morning.”


There was an uncomfortable silence between the two.


“Go ahead,” the Captain said.


“Well, I was in the middle of arresting him when I got word from Mason that he had caught someone who admitted to all of the murders,” Johnson said evenly.


“When you found out differently, why didn’t you go back and arrest the guy?”


“It was late, I was tired and didn’t want to go back.”


“Excuse me?”


Johnson winced and acknowledged his attempt at humor had fallen short. He rubbed his chin with the tips of his fingers. “I’ve got a warrant for his arrest right here on my desk.”


“Why aren’t you using it?”


Johnson looked at his mentor and sighed. “I don’t know, Frank. Something just doesn’t feel right.”


There was a long silence between the two men. The Captain got out of his chair and began pacing across the small office.


“We’ve been over this Lieutenant. You’ve got a case. The guy had the motive and the opportunity. Plus you’ve got signed statements by two people that all but put him at the murder scene. Make the arrest.”


“I agree, we have that. But we don’t have anyone seeing him leave the radio station. We don’t have anyone seeing him on the way to or from his apartment. And we don’t have anyone inside the apartment building seeing him.”


“You’ve got him lying about taping his show. You have him threatening his wife. You have her statements that she was afraid of him.”


Johnson nodded. “But every married man has threatened his wife at some time or another. Besides, it’s a circumstantial case at best. He’s got motive and access, sure. But why does he share a drink with her? He doesn’t have time. And why have sex with his wife before he kills her? It makes no sense and it cuts into the time line.”


The Captain cleared his throat. “Maybe she was having a drink with someone else. Maybe she had sex with someone else before him.”


“If we had semen, we could know for sure.”


The Captain frowned. “We don’t have a semen sample?”


Johnson shook his head. “Nope. So either the killer used a condom or didn’t secrete any fluids, meaning he didn’t finish. Neither makes sense if the killer was Eddie. Why would he care?”


“Maybe he was trying to make it look like someone else did her,” Donovan said.


“Why bother if he has the perfect alibi?” Johnson paused for a few seconds. “Besides, Suzie Case swears she was with him Saturday night.”


The Captain waved him off. “The girl is in love with him. She’ll say anything.”


Johnson clasped his hands together. “I think she’s telling the truth.”


“Even so, you said he had time to leave, commit the murder and return in the time he was out of her sight.”


“Just barely,” Johnson said.


The door opened and Keith came in. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’ve got something I think is important.”


“Share with us, detective,” the Captain said sarcastically.


Keith looked at his Lieutenant. “You were right, sir. I put two men on stake-out at KAKA and the guard left twice. Both times he went down to the X-rated movie house down the block. He was gone 45 minutes the first time and just over half an hour the second.”


Johnson looked pleased.

Captain Donovan whipped his head around. “Are you telling me now that the guard did it?”


“There were a lot of people with the opportunity, Captain, but not with the motive of Fast Eddie.” He looked at Keith. “What about the other matter?”


“He’s got an exemplary record with KAKA and no police record, but I checked further. He was released from his last job. The reason wasn’t official, but a woman accused him of attacking her. No charges were pressed. I also ran a check on his background. He did time in juvenile detention while in high school. Those records, of course, are sealed. But, unofficially, it was for making aggressive passes at one of the teachers.”


Johnson smiled and leaned back in his chair. “Anything else?”


Keith matched the grin. “All KAKA employees are required to give their fingerprints when they come to work. I checked his against those in James’ apartment and got a match. The only fingerprints in the bedroom were Fast Eddie’s, his wife and…”




Keith grinned wider. “He lives in Sausalito. I’ve got the address right here.”


Johnson stood up. “Care to join us, Captain?”


* * * * * *


In another part of town, Suzie Case took a large drink from her glass, hoping the cheap bourbon would wash away some of the nervousness. She was sitting on the couch in Dennis King’s apartment feeling very ill-at-ease. He had called earlier and asked her to come over and talk. Although she had worked with the man for several months, she really didn’t know him well, In light of everything that had happened, though, she felt an obligation to meet with him as he had suggested. After all, it was her father who had fired him earlier that morning.


King was sitting on the couch with her, dressed in black, as usual. He seemed to be a perfect accessory to the tacky apartment.


She took another long sip from her glass and tried to change her feelings about him. It had been a rough week for both of them. “I can’t believe everything that has happened.”


King smirked.


“I can’t believe the police think Eddie killed his wife,” she continued.


“What do you think?” King asked.


The man was leering at her. She took another pull from the glass, trying to ease the knot in the pit of her stomach. So far, the liquor wasn’t helping. “I don’t have to think. Of course he didn’t to it. It’s all confusing, though, sometimes I don’t know what to believe.”


King continued to stare at her. “I know he didn’t do it.”


Her eyes widened. “Do you know something I don’t?”


“I know I got fired.”


She leaned over and patted his arm. “I’m sorry my dad did that, Dennis.” She took a deep breath. “I feel somehow I’m responsible. I wish there was something I could do.”


King cocked his head and gave her a strange look. He leaned forward, grabbed his drink from the coffee table and drained the contents in one long gulp. “Why don’t you drink up?”


His speech was a bit slurred. He had obviously been drinking for a while…and she couldn’t blame him, having been fired earlier. The drink he finished was certainly more than his first.


She took another sip and suddenly felt a bit dizzy and afraid at the same time. She suddenly realized she was alone and vulnerable, but she told herself to keep talking. She placed her drink on the scarred coffee table and said, “I’ll speak to Daddy.”


She found it hard to form the words. She usually didn’t feel the effects of a drink this quick, but it was early in the day.


King slid over on the couch and moved his arms behind her. “I was thinking of something a little more personal.”


Suzie tried to slide away from him, but he was right on her, moving with her, trapping her against the end of the couch.


“I’ve been watching you and Fast Eddie for a long time,” he hissed, his nose just inches from hers. “He’s not good enough for you, Suzie. I’m better than Fast Eddie and I want to show you just how much better.”


Suzie felt her heart pounding in her throat. “Dennis, I don’t feel well. I’m really dizzy. I need to go.” She tried to get up.


His hands grabbed her shoulders roughly and he shoved her back down on the cushions. One had moved across her face and captured her jaw. He squeezed her cheeks brutally.


“You won’t be going anywhere.”


Suzie twisted violently. She reached up with both hands and pulled at his hair. Her nails dug into his scalp.


His hand moved away from her face and for a brief second, she thought he was going to let her up. Then her heart sank. He was holding a gun.


“Dennis,” she cried, “what are you doing?”


Dennis grinned wickedly. “Whatever I want, honey.”


She tried to keep her eyes focused. “You’ll have to kill me first.”


“Whatever you want,” he said as he cocked the pistol. “I’ve already killed one of your boyfriend’s women. What’s one more wasted?”


Suzie started to cry. Deep sobs racked her body as her mind tried to decipher his words. He moved his face closer to hers. She could feel his rancid breath on her cheeks.


“That’s better,” he whispered. “You might be just a little smarter than Rhonda. Of course, the drug I put in your drink should make you easier to convince. I should have used some on Rhonda. But she wanted me. I knew she wanted me just like I know you want me. She just got scared. When she wouldn’t stop fighting, I hit her. She fell back and crashed against the sink. I didn’t mean to kill her…but after I did, I didn’t care.”


Tears trickled down Suzie’s cheeks as she fought the effects of whatever drug he had put in her drink. It was imperative that she keep her wits about her if she was going to survive. It all made sense to her. Dennis was the one. The realization hit her with a deadly force. She also faced the fact that she could quite possibly die.


“While you and Eddie were busy in your dad’s office, I ran up to Rhonda’s. I told her how you and Edie were getting it on behind her back. Then I told her that she and I should get together, like a payback to Eddie. But she said no. Too bad for her, but not for me.”


He was grinning insanely now, his eyes glazed over as he remembered the night. Suzie saw the look in his eyes and knew he was hopelessly gone. She also knew her chances of getting out were slim.


“Now it’s your turn,” he cackled. He stood up and waved the gun toward his bedroom. “Get in there.”


Suzie knew she had no choice.


  • * * * * *


“That’s it, Lieutenant,” Keith shouted.


Johnson whipped his car into the tight driveway. Two black-and-whites pulled in behind him.


“Keith, take the officers and cover the back. The Captain and I will go in the front.” He looked at Donovan. “Are you up for this?”


“I’m with you, Lieutenant,” the Captain growled.


They ran up the stairs to the apartment. Johnson beat on the door with his fist.


“Open up,” he shouted. “San Francisco Police.”


Johnson heard some muffled noises inside the apartment, then a loud noise.


The gunshot from inside made him duck and flinch, then his instincts took over. He slammed his shoulder against the door and it caved in immediately. He fell to his knees and rolled to his right inside the living room of the apartment. The room was empty.


“King?” Johnson shouted. “Give it up.”


The Captain looked down on him from just outside the door. “King?”


Johnson grimaced.


“Back off, cop” King yelled from the bedroom. “I’m coming out, but I’m not alone.”


Both policemen leveled their guns at the bedroom door. When it opened, they were frozen. King had Suzie Case in front of him. He held the barrel of his pistol against her ear.


“Move back or she dies.”


“Please don’t shoot,” Suzie whispered. “Please don’t kill me. I don’t want to die.”


“Hear that?” King snarled. “Move back.”


There was a shuffle of feet outside and Keith peeked around the door with two other patrolmen.


“Keep back!” King shouted.


“This won’t fly, King,” Johnson said calmly. His gun was still trained on the suspect across the room. He raised slowly from his knees. “You can’t get out of here.”


“Yes I can,” King screeched. “Clear me a way to my car. I’m taking the girl with me. When I get clear, I’ll let her go.”


Johnson sighted down the barrel of his gun, trying to get enough of King to get off a shot. The man was well hidden behind his hostage.


“Get out of my way, cop.”


“No,” Johnson said flatly. “This is where it ends. You aren’t going anywhere.”


King peeked around the girl’s head, checking out his situation. Johnson stared, trying to get a clear line of fire. Part of King’s face was visible behind the gun he held to the girls’ ear.


“Let her go, you freak,” Johnson snapped. He was trying to get a reaction and he got it.


“I said move out!” King screamed.


The tension was fierce. Johnson knew they were facing critical mass.


“Okay, back off guys,” he said to the others.


The cops kept their guns out, but began backing away from the door. Johnson continued to look for an angle. He was staring into the man’s right eye, visible now from behind the girl’s hair.


“One wrong move and the girl’s death is on your hands. If you even so much as flinch, I’ll blow her brains out.”


“Maybe,” Johnson said softly, “you won’t even flinch.”


The gun kicked in his hand and the girl screamed.


For a split second, everything moved in slow motion. Johnson watched a tiny hole appear where King’s right eye had been before. Then the man’s body slammed back against the wall from the impact of the hollow-point shell. King hit the wall and began to slide down, leaving a trail of blood and brains on the paneling.


  • * * * * *


They were sitting at Enricho’s, the Captain and the Lieutenant, chasing away the day’s labor with straight whiskey.


“What put you onto King, Tim,” The Captain asked. “I thought you had set up the guard.”


Johnson shook his head. “I just wanted to know if the guard always stayed on his post, otherwise, who could have left the station?”


He took a drink. “King? I told you I couldn’t see James doing his wife for too many reasons. If he had really set it up to kill his wife, too many people would have to have been in on it…King, Suzie. Sooner or later his cover would have been blown. Besides, the biggest problem was the sexual assault. It just didn’t fit.”


“It could have been to throw us off track.”


Johnson shook his head. “No, he would have stolen things if that was what was going on. Since something was always bothering me about Fast Eddie, I had to focus on someone…anyone else. I mean, if it wasn’t James, who was it? And it had to be someone that James wife knew, otherwise, she would never have let them in the apartment. If all of those facts were true, there was only King. When I asked Fast Eddie to give me a list of all of the people from the station who were friendly with the two of them, King’s name was at the top of the list. That’s why she let him in that night. Because she knew him. He got the keys when Fast Eddie went to hang out with Suzie, went in through the garage and did the deed. He could have gotten away clean, but he was crazy. He didn’t think.”


“It’s hard to think straight when you’re completely insane,” the Captain said.


Johnson laughed. “I don’t know about that. Somehow you and I manage.”


The Captain held up his drink. “Cheers, Lieutenant. Somehow you and I manage.”


They drank and left.


Johnson got in his car. The mist was gone. It was a beautiful San Francisco night. He started the engine and turned on the radio.


“It’s a little after eight o’clock on a Wednesday night in the city…it’s a date night…aren’t they all…and a time for love. This is your love monster, Fast Eddie, with the sounds to get you in the mood.”

Rewind II


They sat in the small, windowless conference room on the second floor of the 4th Precinct…Lieutenant Johnson and Keith on one side, a Sergeant Mason and two other detectives on the other. Captain Frank Donovan was at the head.


“I asked Mason to fill you in, Lieutenant,” Donovan said casually. He was two years away from retirement and exhibited an easy way, however, he left no doubt as to who was in charge. A long, angular frame was twisted and bent to fit the small, uncomfortable chair. His body hands cut through the air as he talked. “He’s been working on something that might be tied in with your case.”


Mason cleared his throat and shifted to face Johnson. “It ain’t much.”


He was the opposite of the Captain…soft and bulging. A knot of dark, unruly hair along with his cheap, rumpled suit illustrated his personality perfectly. He motioned and one of the officers sitting beside him shoved several folders across the desk.


“We’ve got three women murdered in the Financial District on the past three Saturday nights. Yours makes four. All of the previous victims were assaulted and strangled.”


Johnson reached for a section of the files and began leafing through them. Mason read from a prepared report. Victim number one was a hooker working the convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Union Square. She was last seen leaving the hotel around 8:30 pm. She was found in the parking garage between two cars at 3 am.”


He turned a page. “Victim number two was a TWA stewardess staying overnight at the Canterbury Hotel on Union Street. She left the other members of her crew about seven o’clock to walk down to Chinatown. She was found the following morning in the alley by the hotel.”


Mason continued in his monotone voice. “Victim three worked in the Transamerica Building for a law firm. She told friends she had to go by her office to finish some work and would meet them later at a bar. The guard in the T.A. Building said she left around nine. She was found in the backseat of her car in the parking lot across the street at midnight by a night watchman.”


He closed the folder. “The ongoing investigation procedures are all listed in the reports.”


Johnson looked up. “Any common denominators?”


Mason shook his head. “None, other than the fact that they were all strangled and sexually assaulted. None of the women knew each other or shared the same friends or hangouts. They didn’t look alike. They were dressed differently.”




“Naw,” Mason wiped a grizzled paw across his thick lips. “Purses were found near each victim, complete with wallets and credit cards intact.”


Johnson frowned and twisted his head to one side, trying to relieve the tension in his neck. “All of them strangled and assaulted on successive Saturday nights within a nine block radius in the Financial District?”


“That’s it.”


“You think they were all killed by the same person?”


Mason shrugged his heavy shoulders again. “Hard to say, Lieutenant. Except for yours last night, they were all strangled and assaulted, but we’ve got no concrete evidence to link them together other than time and place. We have no matching trace evidence. The perp evidently wore a condom so there are no semen excretions.”


Johnson closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “So, we’ve got a serial killer and rapist loose in the Financial District. Have we done any surveillance?”


“We put extra officers in the general vicinity last night and got nothing.”


Johnson looked at the Captain. He now knew why he had been assigned to the case. “Have the newspapers picked up on any of this?”


The Captain moved around in his chair, trying, without success, to find a comfortable position. “As a matter of fact,” he opened the morning paper and threw it toward Johson, “they’ve just put them together. Check out the headline. They’re calling the murders Saturday Night Specials.”


Johnson stared at him for a few moments before saying anything. The murders would be bad enough without media focus. Now, the investigation would become a three-ring circus. “All right, let’s get to work. Mason, you guys continue the investigation on the first three murders. Let’s assume they were all killed by the same person. Interview everyone who works in the district bars and restaurants on Saturday nights. See if anybody heard or saw anything unusual. Find out who the Saturday night regulars are and talk to all of them. We’ll tackle last night’s killing separately. Maybe we can stumble onto something you guys missed. After we’re done, we’ll make a comparison.”


“What do you have on the one last night?” the Sergeant asked.


Johnson looked at Keith. The detective leaned forward and opened his folder. “We’ve got a dead Caucasian female, twenty-six years old named Rhonda James, wife of Edward “Fast Eddie” James, well-known local disc jockey or radio station KAKA. The woman was beaten and apparently sexually assaulted in her apartment last night by an unknown assailant or assailants.”


Keith pulled out the forensics report and passed it across the desk to the Lieutenant. “Cause of death was a blow to the back of the head, probably from the bathroom sink, resulting in a cracked skull and severe brain trauma. The coroner puts the time of death between nine and ten o’clock.”


Johnson reached for a cigarette. The Captain frowned and shook his head and Johnson answered in kind. He shoved the crumpled pack into his pocket and forced himself to listen to Keith.


“There was no sign of forcible entry into the victim’s apartment and it doesn’t appear that anything was stolen. There were signs of a struggle…a smashed vase in the dining area, a broken lamp in the bedroom, busted door and mirror in the bathroom. We found two glasses, half-filled with liquor, one scotch, the other bourbon, indicating the victim may have been sharing a drink with her assailant. Prints on one glass match those of the victim. No prints were found on the other glass. We’re matching other prints in the apartment, but so far, we have nothing.”


“So this may not be connected with the others,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to figure that whoever did it knew the victim. He didn’t break in and the woman obviously fixed him a drink, right?”


“Not necessarily, Lieutenant,” Keith answered. “The assailant could have used a master key to get into the apartment while the victim was out, then surprised her when she returned.”


Johnson nodded. “If that was the case, why fix the guy a drink?”


“Maybe the drinks were from earlier in the afternoon. Maybe she had a drink with her husband before he left for work.”


“Was there any ice in the glasses?” Johnson asked.


Keith opened his notebook. “I’ll find out.”


“But if she had shared a drink with her husband, why weren’t his prints on the other glass?”


“Maybe he didn’t drink it.”


The Lieutenant rubbed his chin absently. “Maybe, but the report said there were no prints…like the glass had been wiped clean. What else do you have?”


Keith flipped through the notes. “According to her neighbors, the victim kept to herself. No one really knew her. We interviewed everyone on her floor and they all seem to be in the clear as is the rest of the building. We’re talking to some of the residents who weren’t home last night.”


Keith studied his writing carefully as he came to the end of the report. He didn’t want to make any mistakes. “I interviewed the guard at the door. Everyone who visits someone in the building signs in before they’re allowed past the guard. There were only three visitors in the building last night and they’re all in the clear.”


“None of them could have done it?” the Captain asked.


Keith sat up a little straighter in his chair. “It’s unlikely, sir. Two of them were ladies visiting a sick friend from their church. The other is a 70-year-old man who has dinner with his son every Saturday night.”


“So, whoever did it must live in the apartment building and was already there at the time of the murder?” the Captain asked again.


“Well, sir, maybe not.”


“What do you mean?” Johnson barked.


“All tenants have keys to the garage. The guard only sees those people coming in from the street. Someone who had a key to the garage could have come in from that way, gone up to the apartment and committed the murder, then left the same way without the guard ever seeing him. But he would have to have a key to the building.”


“Or followed someone into the garage,” one of the other officers noted.


Keith shook his head. “He would still need a key. The elevator from the parking garage only works with a key. It’s an added precaution.”


“What about security cameras?” Johnson asked.


Keith shrugged his shoulders. “There is one camera over the elevators, but it’s been out of order for a couple of months. The guard says the owner has been meaning to replace it, but hadn’t gotten around to it.”


Johnson shook his head. “With the lawsuit that’s could be coming, he’s going to wish he had.” He checked his watch. “I don’t know, maybe we’re onto two different killers.”


“Maybe four,” the Captain snorted.


The officers followed Johnson’s lead and stood up around the table as the meeting broke up. “We’ll get together again tomorrow and compare notes. If anything breaks, let me know immediately.”


As they were heading out, the desk sergeant stuck his head in the door. “There’s an Eddie James to see you, Lieutenant.”


Johnson and Keith exchanged a glance. “Bring him back to the office while I get some coffee.”


It took the Lieutenant a few minutes to fill an almost clean cup with the thick, vile liquid that passed for coffee in the squad room. By the time he got to his office, Eddie and Keith were already sitting in front of the desk.


Johnson held up his cup. “Coffee?”


Eddie looked at the Lieutenant through red, bleary eyes and shook his head.


“Wise choice,” Johnson said. He sat down on the edge of his desk, studying the smaller man sitting in front of him. “Can I get you anything else?”


Eddie slumped over and tears began welling in his eyes. “No thanks. I just got back from identifying Rhonda’s body.” He began to sob quietly.


Johnson let him have a few moments, then took a deep breath. “I hate to put you through this, Eddie, but if we’re going to find out who did this to your wife, we need your help.”


Eddie sighed heavily, raised his head a little and wiped at his eyes. “I’m sorry. I just can’t seem to control my feelings. Yesterday, things seemed perfect. Today, it’s all changed.”


“I understand.” Johnson leaned over and put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Do you feel up to answering a few questions?”


“I’ll try.”


Johnson walked behind his desk and sat down. He pulled a piece of paper from a drawer and began making notes. “Is there anyone, anyone at all that you know of who could have killed your wife?”


Eddie clasped his hands together and shook his head. “Oh, God, no. I knew that was going to be your first question and it’s been on my mind all night. But there is no one. It all seems so impossible.”


“Eddie, I know these questions are difficult, but we’ve got to have some answers so we can move forward.” Johnson was talking slowly so the man would have no trouble understanding. “Take your time and think carefully. Anything, even the smallest detail could be important. You know your wife had sex and was beaten, yet there was no sign of any forced entry.” Johnson paused for a moment, then continued softly. “Whoever did this either had a key to your apartment or your wife let him in.”


Eddie wet his lips with his tongue and tried to make sense. “A key would have done no good, Lieutenant. We have dead bolt locks on all the doors. My wife and I both locked them when we were in the apartment. We even discussed the possibility of someone from the building trying to rob us, so we were very careful about those locks. Besides, Rhonda was scared of staying alone in the city. She’s from a small town and wasn’t happy at all when I took this job in San Francisco. Rhonda was afraid to be left alone at night. Even thought I had to work until midnight, she never got used to it. And I am positive that she bolted all the locks. Every night when I left for work, I would always try the door and make sure she had locked it from the inside. It was sort of a ritual with us. And when I would return, no matter what time, she would have to let me in. Those bolts were always on. Always.”


Johnson gave it a few seconds. “Then the only other possibility is that the killer was in the apartment before your wife got home last night. He could have used a key to gain entrance, then waited for her to return.”


Eddie shook his head. “She wasn’t gone last night. We spent the entire day in the apartment because Rhonda wasn’t feeling well. She thought she was getting a cold. We slept late and I fixed something to eat in the middle of the afternoon. Neither one of us left the apartment until I left for work.”


“And you tested the door after she locked it?”


“Yes sir. Like I always do.”


“And what time did you leave?”


“Right at five.”


Johnson made a few notes on the paper in front of him. He tapped a pencil on the desk for a second, idly gathering his thoughts. “Is it possible that your wife left the apartment after you went to work, walked around the Financial District and was followed home by someone?”


“Anything is possible, but that’s a long shot,” Eddie answered quickly. “I told you, Rhonda was scared of the city. She didn’t even like to walk around when I was with her. There is no way she would have walked around alone at night. No way.”


Johnson turned sideways and gazed through the windows that looked out on the city. He wasn’t getting anywhere. “So, no all we have left is that someone came to call on your wife when you were gone, she recognized who it was and let them in.”


Eddie considered the statement for a moment, then nodded. “I guess you’re right.”


“The only problem is that the guard admitted only three people in the building last night, none of them to see your wife. It must have been someone in the building.”


Eddie slumped in his chair. “We don’t know anyone from our building, Lieutenant. To my knowledge, no one in our building has visited our apartment and we’ve been there almost a year. We didn’t know a soul.”


Johnson made some more notes. It was always tough in the beginning. If people were always like they seemed to be, then, of course, no crimes would ever be committed. The problem was, people weren’t always like their outward appearance and it was in questioning like this that he found out who they were and who they weren’t.


He reached for a cigarette. No one would tell him to put it out in his own office. He torched the end and inhaled deeply. “Something has to be out of place. It looks like whoever killed her knew her well enough to be admitted to the apartment when she was alone. Did the two of you have any close friends in the city?”


Eddie thought for a moment. “Outside of a few people at the radio station and a couple of others, we had no friends. I can’t believe any of the people we knew would do this.”


“I don’t want to bust your bubble, Eddie, but it has happened before. It must have been someone she knew.” Johnson took a drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke toward the ceiling. “I know this will be tough, but I’ve got to ask. Do you have any reason to believe your wife was seeing someone else?”


Eddie cleared his throat. “After what happened last night, I had to consider it. Anything’s possible, but I don’t think so. We have, or rather had, a good marriage. Since coming to San Francisco, we’ve had a few problems, but none out of the ordinary. From time to time I would call her while I was on the air and I always found her at home. I don’t think she was seeing anyone else. We were too happy.”


Eddie stared into space, his eyes glassing over.


Lieutenant Johnson recognized the signs. He knew he had to keep the questions coming. Usually, people in situations like this found some comfort in discussing the crime, as long as they weren’t allowed time to dwell on the particular circumstances. It allowed them some kind of closure. They often reacted dispassionately, as though they weren’t involved. Johnson wanted to make sure there were no long pauses in the conversation where Eddie’s internal defense mechanisms would kick in and he would shut down.


“You said you had a few problems since coming to San Francisco,” he asked abruptly.


Eddie snapped his head around and came back to the present. Johnson could see him struggling to focus on the question.


“I’ve been working in smaller cities. San Francisco is the big time,” Eddie grinned without humor. “My hours aren’t exactly the greatest in the world. I do a lot of public appearances. The audience loves me and Rhonda kind of resented the success I was having. I think she wanted me to remain in the smaller cities where she was a more important part of my life. But we had worked through all of that. Lately, things had been just great.”


Johnson stared at Eddie’s face for a few moments. He didn’t think there was much more he could learn. He crushed out the cigarette. “I appreciate your answering questions. It will help us in the long run. I need some more help from you, if you don’t ‘mind. Your fingerprints, so we can discard yours from the ones we lifted in the apartment. I also need for you to go through the place and see if anything is missing, although I don’t think robbery is a motive. And I need a list of all of your friends, everyone who’s been in your apartment, anyone your wife knew and might let in.”


“Sure, Lieutenant. Is there anything else?”


Johnson scratched his cheek for a few seconds while he thought. “Did you and your wife share a drink before you went to work yesterday?”


Eddie shook his head. “No.”


“If she had fixed you a drink, would it have been bourbon?”


Again, Eddie shook his head. “I wouldn’t drink bourbon or scotch on a bet. Vodka or tequila is the only hard liquor I touch.”


Johnson hesitated only a second before he stood up and held out his hand. “I’ll give you a call if we come up with anything.”


Eddie shook his hand, started through the door, then stopped. “It just occurred to me that Rhonda said the guard in the building really gave her the creeps.”


Johnson perked up. “Which guard?”


“The one working nights while I’m on the air.”


“Did she say the guy made a pass at her or anything?”


“No sir, and I never followed up on it. She never mentioned it again. I never met the guy. I always came in through the garage.”


Johnson took a deep breath. “Okay, Eddie, we’ll check it out. Anything else like that you remember, please call me.”


Eddie nodded and left the office. An officer approached him outside of the door to take him down the hall to have him fingerprinted.


Johnson paced slowly in front of his desk. “We’ve got a woman who isn’t feeling well, according to her husband, stays in bed all day, locks the door after her husband leaves for work, then lets someone she obviously knows into her apartment. The guy assaults her and kills her and leaves without being seen by anyone.” Johnson took a heavy drag, holding the smoke in his lungs for a few seconds before letting it out with a rush. “What about the guard?”


“Not likely,” Keith said. “The guy’s more of a doorman. He doesn’t even carry a gun. He is in his 60s, very small and skinny as a rail. I thought we were going to have to give him oxygen when we questioned him.”


“Check it out again. Find out why the woman was afraid of him.”


“What about a boyfriend, Lieutenant? With her husband working every night, it would have been pretty easy for her to be seeing someone on the side without him ever knowing about it.”


Johnson agreed. “I would buy that except for a couple of reasons. According to the coroner’s report, she was dressed in an old, cotton nightgown and wasn’t wearing any makeup. What woman lets her boyfriend see her like that? Her husband? Yes. Her boyfriend? I don’t think so. And if he doesn’t live in the building, how does he get in without being seen?”


“Maybe she gave him a key.”


Johnson mashed out the butt in an ashtray. “It doesn’t feel right.”


“I know,” Keith said. “Normally, we would be looking at the husband.”


Johnson snorted. “That’s pretty much out the window since a few hundred thousands of people were listening to him while the murder was being committed. It’s a pretty compelling alibi.”


“It’s got to me someone in the building.”


Johnson got up. “I agree. Interview everyone again. See if we can turn something.


* * * * * *


The sun was setting in Sausalito, the little city built into the steep hills across the bay from San Francisco. It was the most beautiful time of day. High above, the sun kept the sky azure blue, as the shadows closed in on the buildings below. Streaks of sunlight escaped the shadows from time to time, skipping across the white caps in the bay until they, too, disappeared into the darkness. Across the water, the lights in the tall buildings of the city winked at their neighbor. Dusk in Sausalito was romantic, a poet’s dream.


The crowd at Jack’s Bar was just starting to build when the tow of them made their way out. It was only a short walk to his tiny apartment.


The girl took a quick look around and didn’t like what she saw. “I’m leaving.” She stood up, wobbling a bit. She was more than a little drunk.


“Come on, have another drink,” the man told her.


She leaned carefully over and set her glass down on the floor. “Bullshit. I’m leaving. The only reason I agreed to come over here in the first place was because you said there was going to be a party.” She gave the small, tack apartment another quick once-over. “There isn’t any party. Even if you planned one, nobody would come here.”


She walked unsteadily across the room toward the door. He moved quickly in front of her, blocking the way. “Relax. Have another drink and let’s get cozy.”


She moved around him and reached for the door. He jerked her hand away from the knob, pushed her back against the door and shoved his body against hers.


“Get off me.”


She struggled, but he was stronger. Holding her wrist over her head, he moved to kiss her.


“Stop!” She twisted her face to avoid his lips and pushed against his chest with her free hand.


He reached up and grabbed the back of her neck with his other hand. Again he leaned down and tried to kiss her.


She struggled harder. “Let go, you bastard, you’re hurting me.”


He grabbed her hair and twisted her face up toward his. He grinned confidently and raked his lips across her cheek.


She suddenly jerked her knee up hard between his legs. The smile left his face with the breath from his lungs. He fell quickly to his knees, then crumpled slowly toward the floor, his hands clutching his crotch, a moan slipping from his lips.


“You piece of shit,” the girl rasped as she stepped across him and opened the door. “Everybody told me not to go out with you because you were a creep. They were right.”


It was five minutes before he could move to close the door and another ten before he pulled himself to the couch. The pain, so intense before, gradually faded into a dull ache, allowing other thoughts into his head.


She wasn’t like the one the previous night. He had not been ready for her reaction. He pulled his legs into a fetal position against his chest and closed his eyes. One had clipped between the cushions of the couch and gripped the handle of the pistol.


He would be ready for the next one.


* * * * * *


Tim Johnson was sitting in his office with Captain Donovan and Sergeant Keith on Monday morning. Johnson was reading the morning paper as others watched warily. When he finished, he grunted and threw it angrily down on his desk. Keith picked it up and read the headline. “Saturday Night Specials Contine.” Underneath, in smaller print, the story was outlined, “DJ’s Wife Is Fourth Victim. Police Have No Leads.” The rest of the story had the details of the case, what little there were. Toward the end of the story, Mr. Jonathan Case, manager radio station KAKA was quoted as being critical of the investigation.


“Damn these news people,” Keith snarled.


“I agree, Keith,” Lieutenant Johnson said, “but it would be nice if we had something they didn’t. Do we?”


Keith swallowed. “I checked with Mason this morning and they haven’t got any new leads on the other three killings.” He looked at his ever-present notebook. “We canvassed the apartment building again and didn’t pick up much. Like James said, hardly anyone in the building knew them.”


Johnson reached for a cigarette, ignoring the look on the Captain’s face.


“The only person who could give us any information,” Keith went on, “was the next door neighbor, Mrs. Tilman, who made the original 911 call. She says she heard the James’ fighting quite a bit. According to Mrs. Tilman, James; wife was constantly yelling at him for having a girlfriend on the side. She says hardly a night went by without an argument. She heard all of this because her bedroom is right through the wall from theirs.”


Johnson laughed. “Thank God for busybodies. Without them, half the crimes in the world would go unsolved.”


“Mrs. Tilman says she never heard Mrs. James entertain anybody else in the apartment,” Keith went on. “As far as she knew, Mrs. James never went out when her husband was at work. She would turn the radio on when Eddie went on the air and switch it off when his show was over. She says that until about a month ago, Mr. James wasn’t getting home until around two o’clock in the morning, but lately he was making it around 12:15.” Keith grinned. “She insisted that she knew this only because she had trouble sleeping and, as I said before, her bedroom was next to hers.”


Johnson laughed out loud. “That and the fact that she had a glass against the wall listening, more than likely.”


“Anyhow,” Keith continued, “Mrs. James used to accuse him of being with other women after his show, but when he started getting home earlier, she calmed down a bit. She also said that the afternoon she was killed, they had a terrific fight. She heard them arguing about divorce.”


The Captain pursed his lips. His eyebrows twitched upwards as his face came alive. “Seems as if all was not perfect in paradise.”


“The plot thickens.” Johnson lit the cigarette. “Who’s the culprit, Keith?”


Keith shook his head. “I don’t have one right not, Lieutenant.”


Johnson leaned back in his chair and tried to blow a couple of smoke rings. “Who is the first person we look at in a murder case?”


“It doesn’t apply here.”


“Who’s the first?” Johnson barked.


“The husband,” Keith answered sheepishly. “But it doesn’t apply in this case. The man’s got a perfect alibi with maybe a million people to testify as to where he was.”


“Maybe he hired someone to do it.”


Keith shook his head. “It doesn’t fit. If he hired someone, he would have certainly made it look like a robbery. Besides, with no forced entry, his wife would have had to let him in. Remember the dead bolts. And if it was Fast Eddie, he would know we would have to look at him sooner or later. There are too many loose ends.”


“I agree with the Sergeant,” Captain Donovan said. “Fast Eddie doesn’t get my vote.”


Johnson leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. “You both may be right, but there are some things that are bothering me.”


“Like what?” the Captain asked.


“Like a man saying everything was fine with his wife, yet the neighbor says they fought constantly.”


Keith made a face. “A lot of married couples fight. That doesn’t mean they commit murder. Also, he wouldn’t be the first innocent man who made his life with his wife seem a little prettier than it really was. It doesn’t mean the guy hired someone to kill his wife.”


“Like what else?” the Captain chimed in.


Johnson took another hit off the cigarette. “Like Fast Eddie says he only drinks tequila or vodka…and that’s what was in the glass at the station when we went there on the night of the murder. And like his shoes were wet that night, yet he was supposed to have been in the control room the whole time.”


“I didn’t notice his shoes,” Keith said.


“That’s only one of ten thousand reasons why you are a Sergeant and I’m a Lieutenant.”


The Captain waved his hands in the air. “So you think he had something to do with it?”


Johnson shook his head. “I didn’t say that. There are more than a few things about this one that bothers me. What about the guard?”


Keith was quick with an answer. “No dice. The guard on duty Saturday and Sunday nights is different from the guy who works during the week days. He’s old and weak. Plus, he was playing chess with one of the other tenants when the murder took place. Evidently, it’s a regular Saturday night game. I checked with all the other guards and they all have solid alibis. Except for one.”


“What about him?”


Keith grinned. “He’s a she, Lieutenant.”


Johnson leaned forward and rested his elbows on his desk. Something about the whole thing was bothering him, but he couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. “Let’s go back to the husband.”


Keith grimaced. “No way, Lieutenant. It doesn’t work.”


“I know it doesn’t Keith. That’s why I want…” Johnson stopped and snapped his fingers. “Wait a second.”


He picked up the phone and punched out a number. The Captain and Keith started at each other, neither knowing what was going on.


“Mr. Case, please. Tell him it’s Lieutenant Johnson.” Johnson leaned forward and frowned at Keith, then went back to the phone. “Mr. Case, I wonder if I could take up a little bit of your time with a few questions.”


“Sure, Lieutenant, but you need to know that Fast Eddie’s going on the air tonight was his idea, not mine.”


Johnson’s chin jerked back with this revelation. He had no knowledge of Eddie’s returning to work. “His idea?”


“Absolutely. Eddie told me it would be easier on him if he worked, rather than just sit around the house and brood about this thing. And you know, Lieutenant, I agree with him.”


“He’s going on the air tonight?” Johnson asked redundantly.


“Yes. I assumed that’s what this call was about.”


“No, I had some other questions. Do you mind if I stop by the station in about forty-five minutes?”


“May I ask you what interests you in particular?”


“Pre-recording.” Johnson hung up the phone.


(Continued until next week.)




(The following is a short story written by Gerry Cagle soon to be published by Brandon Publishing. It will be printed in three installments.)


“It’s nine-twenty-two, that’s twenty-two minutes after nine o’clock if you’re left handed, Saturday night in the world’s most beautiful city. It’s a night for love and your Love Monster, Fast Eddie is here with music to move into it on Kay-A-Kay-A, San Francisco’s Double K-FM.”


The radio was on loud, as if the volume of sound could brighten up the apartment. It wasn’t that the place needed it. An ornate, crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, its lights twinkling against the walls, joining with the softer flow of two lamps on each side of a large, white sofa located in the center of the room. The immaculate hardwood floor glistened with the reflections, softened only by a thick, beige rug that extended underneath a glass coffee table. Two smaller chairs sat on either corner where the rug ended.


Built into the wall directly opposite the couch was a sophisticated entertainment system housing a large-screen TV, two VCRs, tape and cassette decks and a CD player. A computer panel in the center controlled the system, feeding several speakers throughout the apartment.


The room was brightly lit, yet it seemed dark and cold, more like a showplace than a real living room. Wood was stacked neatly in the clean fireplace where no ashes were visible from a previous fire. Books in the large bookcase were all positioned by height and size, giving the appearance that they weren’t read often. Hundreds of CDs were filed in neat rows below the system. Even the pictures on the walls were perfectly straight, not one tilting the slightest bit away from the horizontal.


Everything was in its proper place. Almost.


A man came out of the bedroom and moved across the hardwood floors, straightening his jacket as he walked. He left through the front door.


The radio continued blasting, but the woman in the bedroom wasn’t listening. Under normal circumstances, she would be described as beautiful. She had a model’s figure with wide shoulders, a tiny waist and shapely hips that curved down to join her exceptionally long legs. She was lying on her back, he long, blonde hair cascading across the bed. A sheet was pulled haphazardly across her upper body.


The radio continued to blare. “It’s Fast Eddie playing your favorites on San Francisco’s favorite station, Double K-FM! Here’s one for my friends having fun in the city!”


The woman didn’t hear. She was dead.


* * * * * *

Lieutenant Tim Johnson was sitting at his favorite table on the sidewalk outside of Enricho’s, one of the city’s finest Italian restaurants, making casual conversation with the waiter when he got the call. He wasn’t just any cop. He was the city’s most celebrated homicide detective. San Francisco love heroes and the newspapers canonized Tim Johnson several years before when he cracked a murder-for-hire ring in Chinatown. Since then, the mere fact that he was assigned to a case was a cause for headlines. Some said the “Dirty Harry” movies were patterned after his professional life. Whether or not that was true, it was a fact that next to Dirty Harry, Tim Johnson was San Francisco’s most famous detective.


He headed the Police Department’s most elite homicide unit. It wasn’t named, but the unit was assigned to cases that involved high profile victims or perpetrators and would invariably generate media heat.


He didn’t look like a hero. He was stocky, just under six feet tall, and weighed just over 200 pounds. His face was square with heavy jowls that were dominated by a large nose. His eyebrows were thick, dark caterpillars, constantly moving with his thoughts and feelings. It wasn’t a handsome face, but an expressive one. He had a great smile and a terrific scowl, which he was wearing now.


He took a long sip from his drink, gazed out into the mist of the city and opened his cell phone. “What?”


It was less a question than a statement.


“It’s Keith, Lieutenant. We’ve got a woman dead in her apartment in the Financial District. We were lucky. It couldn’t have happened more than 30 minutes before we got here.”


“Really? Did one of us do it?”


“No sir.”


Johnson frowned, not pleased that Keith didn’t acknowledge his obvious joke. Then again, Keith was the serious type. “You guys can’t handle it?”


“It’s going to be a media feast. Captain said to get you on it right away.”


“I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”


* * * * * *


The girl sitting in the darkness jumped off the couch when the door opened quietly.


“What took you so long? You’ve been gone almost 30 minutes.” The words tumbled quickly out of her mouth. “Where were you? I’ve been worried.”


The man smiled and closed the door behind him. “There’s nothing to worry about. I had to dodge a couple of people, but I’m here now and that’s all that matters.”


He walked across the room and tried to kiss her, but she turned away. “Why did you leave?”


“To get your surprise.” He reached into his jacket, took out a small box and handed it to her. “Happy Anniversary.”


Her expression changed immediately. She sat back on the couch and opened the box. Inside was a small diamond attached to a gold chain.


Her expression changed immediately. She sat back on the couch and opened the box. Inside was a small diamond attached to a gold chain.


“I can’t believe it,” she stuttered.


“You deserve it, baby,” he said confidently as he eased down beside her. “We both deserve it.”


He took the necklace and put it around her neck, then pulled her towards him. This time she didn’t resist. She kissed him.


“I bought it two weeks ago and kept it hidden in the car. When I went out to get it, I had to dodge the old man.” He laughed. “He leaned against my car and took a smoke.”


She threw both arms around his neck and shoved him down on the cushions, throwing one leg across him so she could sit on his chest. “I didn’t buy you anything,” she grinned wickedly, “but I’ve got a present for you.”


“No, baby,” he protested, pointing to his watch.


She wasn’t convinced. She kissed him deeply and time didn’t matter any more.


“It’s nine-fifty in the night time…Saturday night…date night in the city. It’s time to be with the one you love or love the one you’re with. Fast Eddie’s putting on the mood music with another love song. Mariah Carey’s on Double-K-FM.”


* * * * * *


The two men went up the steps to the apartment building tow-at-a-time, walked through the lobby and into a waiting elevator, the doors held open by a uniformed policeman.


“Talk to me, Keith.”


The younger man checked a small notepad. “We got a call from one of the other tenants about 9:30. She heard some banging and screaming next door. The first unit got here at 9:45; we were cruising the area and responded a couple of minutes after. All of us went up together, knocked and when there was no answer, went inside. The door wasn’t locked.


“We couldn’t have gotten here much after the killer left. The body was still warm. We sealed off the building and are searching and interviewing everyone. So far, nothing.”


The elevator stopped and the doors hissed apart. Two more police officers were standing in front of a door across from the elevator.


Keith steered the Lieutenant into the apartment, through the living area to the bedroom. Johnson gave the place a quick one-over. Three members of the forensics team were busy testing the room for trace evidence. He noticed a broken glass in one corner, the busted bathroom door and the shattered mirror. His eyes moved back toward the bed where he saw a lamp lying on the floor, evidently knocked off the bedside table.


The woman was sprawled across the bed. Even from his distance, Johnson could see her bloody mouth and bruises on her face and neck. A stain of blood beneath her head was soaking into the white spread. Her eyes were wide open, staring at the ceiling, seeing nothing.


“Is the room just like you found it?” he shouted over the blaring radio.


“Yes sir.”


“Keep out of the way of the forensics team and let them do their job. Have them check the entire place. I want fingerprints, time of death and anything else they come up with on my desk by eight in the morning.”


“Yes sir.”


“And turn off that damned radio.”


“This is Fast Eddie and that was one of the most requested songs of the night…”


Someone shut off the radio, stopping the voice in mid-sentence.


“I’m assuming,” Johnson growled, “that there is a reason other than your love of music that the radio was blaring.”


“We first thought the killer turned the radio up loud to cover the noise. But after checking, we found the deceased always played the radio loud. Several of the neighbors have complained before to the manager. She always listened to the same station every night at the same time. We checked a little further and found out why. Her husband is the deejay on KAKA. His name is Fast Eddie.”


Johnson’s eyebrows went up in recognition. “Keith, you and I are going to go over to KAKA and make a few requests.”


* * * * * *


“Take a left here, Lieutenant. The radio station is down the block on the right.”


They were in the car, driving through down-town San Francisco in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Although the siren was screaming and the light on top was flashing, the cars in front weren’t moving. Detective Keith watched out of the corner of his eye as Johnson grew more impatient. He smiled in the darkness. Anytime now, the Lieutenant would explode. Patience was not one of his virtues.


“Look at this crap!” Johnson yelled.


Keith turned his head and grinned. The traffic was snarled. All four lanes were standing still.


Johnson jammed on the horn with no effect.


“The hell with it!”


He whipped the sedan over the curb and drove up the sidewalk, shouting at pedestrians and drivers as he went. He pulled into a driveway and slammed on the bakes. A gate prevented the car from moving any further. On the other side of the gate was a small guard house. Again, he leaned on the horn.


The door to the guard house opened and a uniformed security officer rushed out. “Get off that horn before I call the police,” he yelled.


Johnson got out of the car and flashed his badge. “Well, never let it be said that San Francisco’s finest don’t act quickly. Get this gate opened right away.”


“Yes sir!” The guard moved hurriedly, pulling out his keys and fiddling with the lock. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t know who you were. We get all kinds up here at night.” He swung the gate open.


Keith slid across the seat and under the wheel. He nosed the car through the gate and into an empty space as Johnson began grilling the guard.


“What’s your name?”


“Kelly, sir. I was on the force myself in Sacramento for 30 years.”


“It’s nice to know we’re working with a professional,” Johnson said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. “We’re investigating a murder and I need to see Mr. Fast Eddie right now.”


The guard looked down and rubbed his chin. “Well, sir, that will be impossible.”


Johnson folded his thick arms across his chest and rocked back on his heels. “Explain to me, Mr. Kelly, what makes my request impossible?”


The guard was nervous now, wiping his wet palms against his pants. He was an old man, just doing light security work to fight the boredom and he didn’t need any problems with the police, but he didn’t need to blow his job with the radio station, either. “Fast Eddie is on the air right now and I can’t let anyone in there when he’s doing his show. He’s real…”


“Kelly,” Johnson leaned forward and got in the guard’s face, “evidently I didn’t make myself clear. We’re investigating a homicide…a murder, Mr. Kelly. This isn’t a normal visit and I’m not a normal visitor. I want to see Fast Eddie right now, this second. Do you understand?”


Keith, who had gotten out of the car and was now standing next to the Lieutenant, fought off a grin. His boss was hot.


The guard moved back a step, then straightened his shoulders. “I understand the importance of it all, sir, but I’m following orders. I don’t let anyone into the building who isn’t on the list and unless you’ve got a warrant, I can’t let you in without first clearing it with my boss.”


Johnson continued to glare for a moment, but it was clear the security guard wasn’t going to be intimidated. Secretly impressed with the old man’s backbone, he spun around and walked toward the car. “Then by all means,” he called over his shoulder, check with your boss. But do it quickly.”


Johnson opened the door and slid under the wheel, reaching over the visor for a pack of cigarettes as he slouched down in the seat. He shook out a Marlboro, lit it and took a deep drag before blowing it out into the mist. He had only taken a couple of puffs when the guard approached.


“I just talked to the manager of the station. He told me to take you inside and have you wait for him. He’ll be here in less than five minutes.”


* * * * * *


Fast Eddie was behind the console in the control room. A microphone hung about 10 inches in front of his face. To his right were three large computers and two telephones, each with a set of 10 lines, all of which were blinking rapidly.


The deejay was a bundle of nervous energy. He shifted back and forth in the swivel chair, snapped his fingers, shuffled his feet, then leaned forward and flicked a switch on the console.


“Dennis, let’s do the 27 set, back-announce and I’ll do the live going in followed by the Coke commercial, jingle three coming out and into Brown 45. Hit is hot, drop it down and I’ll do a request rap over the intro to the vocal.”


The man he was talking to sat in an adjacent room, visible through a large, glass window directly in front of him. The engineer nodded and began making the preparations.


Fast Eddie leaned back in his chair, hit a different switch and asked, “How do you feel?”


Through another window on his right, the young operator who was answering the request lines put down the phone and reached for her intercom button. A big smile lit up her beautiful face. “I’ve never felt better in my life.”


Eddie smiled back. “Suzie, I don’t know when I have a better show: the two hours before, when I’m looking forward to it, or the two hours after, when I’m so happy.”


“I don’t know either,” she said, “but if you’re ratings keep going up, I’m going to demand a percentage.”


He laughed. “That’s fine with me, but you’re going to have to call your dad and tell him why.”


She blew him a kiss and picked up the phone. Eddie leaned forward, put on his head set and got ready to rock.


* * * * * *


Lt. Johnson and Detective Keith followed the guard down a corridor inside the station. Johnson noticed several doors, all closed and seemingly locked. The guard stopped in front of a heavy, soundproofed door with a red light over it.


“What’s this?” Johnson asked.


“The control room,” the guard answered.


“Is Fast Eddie in there?”


The guard nodded.


Johnson pushed on the door, but it was locked. “Open it.”


The guard swallowed. “We should wait for…”


“Open the God-damned door.”


With the statement, the red light illuminated from above the door. “I can’t. The door locks automatically when the light is on. That’s when Fast Eddie opens his mike. I can’t open the door until that light goes off.”


Speakers in the ceiling carried the sound of the radio station down to the men below. “Kay Ay Kay Ay, San Francisco’s Double K-FM and Fast Eddie at eleven-twenty-seven, just a few short minutes away from the bewitching hour when you will be witched by Scott Shannon. It’s a wonderful night in the city…the little bit of rain we got earlier brought the temperature down to a pleasant 62 and we sure needed it to cool off. It was burning until then. Or was it just me? Ha. Speaking of burning, when you’re on the beach tomorrow, you don’t want to burn so take along some…”


Johnson looked at Keith and shook his head. “How these guys talk so fast and still make sense is beyond me.”


“Yeah,” Keith agreed, “but it’s debatable as to whether or not they make sense.”


The red light went off and the guard tried the door, but it still wouldn’t open. “Sorry,” he shrugged. “They have it locked from the inside. I’ll have to ring.”


He pushed a button on the side of the door. They waited a few moments and nothing happened. Johnson reached around the guard abruptly, put his finger on the button and held it.


“Yes?” a female voice came from a small speaker just above the button.


“It’s Kelly, Miss Case.”


“Just a second. I’ll be right there.”


Johnson frowned. “Who was that?”


“That’s Suzie Case. She’s the request line operator until midnight. She’s also the boss’s daughter.”


The door opened slightly and Suzie Case stuck her head out. Johnson looked at Keith and raised his eyebrows, silently acknowledging her beauty between them.


“Miss Case, these two men are detectives. They want to talk to Fast Eddie.”


The girl made no move to open the door further. She looked only at the guard. “You know Eddie won’t talk to anyone while he’s on the air.”


Johnson smiled condescendingly. “I understand totally, Miss, and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t press it, but these aren’t normal circumstances.”


He reached forward quickly, pushed the door open and flashed the badge in front of her face. I’m Lt. Johnson and this good-looking thing next to me is Detective Keith and we need to see Mr. Fast Eddie and we need to see him right now.”


He brushed past her through the door. Keith and the guard followed. There were three other doors at the end of the short hallway.


“Which one of these do I go through?”


Before anyone could answer, another man came rushing through the door from the outer corridor. “All right, what’s going on here?”


The guard came to attention. “Mr. Case, these are the police officers I told you about. They want to see Eddie.”


Johnson nodded gruffly. It was crowded in the small hallway, making extra movement difficult.


“Gentlemen, that is impossible.”


The Lieutenant took a deep breath and tried to control his anger. “Mr. Case is it?” he asked with a cold, even voice? He didn’t want for an answer. “Everyone seems to be stuck on the same channel here tonight and it’s not Double K-FM. I am sick and tired of being told that Fast Eddie can’t talk because he’s on the air. I don’t care whether he’s on land or sea. I want to talk with him right now. Are you going to cooperate or am I going to have to take all of you downtown for obstructing justice?”


“Lieutenant, can I have a word?”


Dwight Case was as tall as Johnson, but much slimmer. He was dressed casually, but expensively, in pressed brown trousers, a starched white shirt and dark Gucci loafers with no socks. His perfectly coiffed hair was black with no hint of gray.


He grabbed Johnson by the elbow and maneuvered him down the corridor and away from the others. “Lieutenant, I do understand,” his voice low so only the two of them could hear what he was saying. “The last thing I want to do is cause trouble. However, you know as well as I that we’re not obstructing justice. You don’t have a search warrant and Eddie will only be on the air another 15 minutes. Then you can speak to him at length. Besides, if you went inside now, he wouldn’t be able to talk with you. He’s only got three or four minutes between records and that’s taken up by preparing for his next commercial break. You’ll spend 15 minutes getting 30 seconds of conversation while at the same time destroying his show for the thousands of people listening. If you’ll wait with me in my office, I assure you he’ll see you the instant he gets off the air.”


Johnson stared at the man for a long moment, weighing his options. He could play it either way. Fighting the impulse to push his way through the doors, he forced himself to relax.


“Mr. Case, we can argue all night about obstructing justice. However, we will be arguing downtown because that’s where I’m inclined to take all of you.” Johnson took pride in watching Case’s face tense up. “However, I will work out a compromise. I heard Mr. Fast Eddie talking about another deejay who will take his place at midnight. Let him go on a little early and get Fast Eddie into your office now. I can’t tell you how important this is. And I can’t tell you that I’m not going to wait another fifteen minutes to make this happen.”


Case looked a bit relieved at the latter part of the statement. He patted Johnson on the shoulder. “That’s certainly reasonable. If you’ll follow me to my office, I’ll make the arrangements and have Eddie meet us there.”


Keith was staring at Suzie Case with a stupid smile on his face. The girl hadn’t noticed him.




The detective snapped out of his daydream. As they walked out, Johnson saw the girl smile.


Before they went through the door, Case turned. “Suzie, please go tell Scott to take over early. And early means right now. You go back to answering the phones. Don’t tell Eddie anything that happened, just tell him to come to my office. Oh, and tell him he’s not being fired. I just want to talk with him.”


Suzie nodded silently, followed the four men to the door and closed it behind them. Johnson heard the lock click from the inside.


“I had to tell her that,” Case chuckled. “You tell a deejay you want to see him 15 minutes before his shift is over and he believes he’s getting fired.”


The policemen followed the manager down the other end of the hallway and around the corner to his office. He stopped in front of a door, opened it with a key, entered and turned on the lights. The men walked through a reception area toward another door behind a desk. Case unlocked this door also and walked in.


The front office was large, with a huge desk at one end. In front of the desk were three chairs. At the other end of the room was an oversized, L-shaped couch with a large coffee table in front of it. Framed Gold records and pictures of recording artists decorated the walls.


Case pointed to the couch. “Please have a seat.”


While Keith sat down, Johnson pretended to be interested in the pictures. “Nice office.”


“Thank you,” Case said. The man frowned. He picked a glass off the coffee table, stared at it intently, sniffed the rim, then took it into the outer office and set it on his secretary’s desk. He returned and made a note.


“Seems like one of the cleaning people has been using my office to have a little nip.” Looking up at Lt. Johnson, he continued, “Now, what can I do for you?”


Johnson gave him a quick glance. “There’s nothing you can do for us. We’re waiting to see Fast Eddie, if he actually exists. I think it would have been easier to get to the President.”


Case chuckled softly. “I apologize for the inconvenience, but we get all kinds of people down here who want to see the disc jockeys and we’ve got special security procedures to prevent them.”


The man lowered his voice and smiled, trying to gain the Lieutenant’s confidence. “I know you came here to see Eddie, but as his employer and the manager of this station, I think I’m entitled to know what the police want with one of my people. I have the station’s reputation to protect.”


Johnson reached for a cigarette.


“There’s no smoking in here,” Case said quickly.


Johnson snapped open his lighter, lit the cigarette, then blew the smoke toward the ceiling, all the time staring at Case. “That’s where you’re dead wrong.” His voice was flat and unemotional. “You aren’t entitled to know anything. This isn’t a civil case. We’re not here because one of your deejays got a teeny-bopper pregnant. I’ve been explaining this all night and nobody’s been listening. We’re investigating a homicide and I want to ask the questions, not answer them. We can either do this here, in your office, or at the police station, but my questions are going to be answered. Do you get my drift?”


Case shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Well, any way I can help, just ask.”


Johnson took another drag off his cigarette. “What’s Fast Eddie’s real name?”


Case cleared his throat. “Edward Thomas James. He uses Fast Eddie on the air because it adds a little snap to his show.”


Johnson threw a quick look over his shoulder. Keith was busy make notes.

“What time does he work?”


“He’s on the air from seven until midnight, Monday through Saturday. He’s supposed to be in the station an hour before his shift begins to prepare for his show.”


“Do you know his wife?”


Cased knotted his brow. “Rhonda James? Yes, she seems like a nice lady. I don’t know her very well.”


Johnson looked around the room. “Do you have a phone I can use? I’ve got no cell service.”


Case pointed toward the reception area. “Out there. Just dial nine.”


Johnson walked into the outer office and picked up the phone. After punching a number, he absently picked up the glass Case had set on the desk earlier. It smelled faintly of tequila. On the side was an inscription, “Fast Eddie.”


His call connected, the Lieutenant got to the point. “Talk to me.”


“We’ve got all kinds of prints, Lieutenant, as you would expect,” said a detective on the other end. “They’re matching them now. Death occurred between nine and ten o’clock, probably cause was a blow to the back of the head. We found blood in the lavatory in the bathroom, like someone tried to wash it off. There was no sign of forcible entry. The neighbors saw nobody and besides the woman next door who called us, nobody heard anything. The doorman downstairs keeps a list of all visitors in the building and nobody signed in to see the deceased. There were only four visitors all night and we’re checking them out.”


“Good work. Anything else?”


“Yes, the lady had sexual intercourse either shortly before or after her death.”


“Was it rape?”


“Too early to tell.”


Johnson hung up the phone and walked back into Case’s office, still holding the glass. “What does this inscription mean?”


Case looked up. “Every deejay has a couple of drinking glasses kept in the lounge down the hall. They use their own so they don’t mistakenly drink from someone’s dirty glass.”


“Does Fast Eddie use your office?”


“No,” Case said. “I’m the only one with a key besides the cleaning people. One of them probably borrowed Eddie’s glass after cleaning the lounge and came in here for a drink. It happens occasionally.” He motioned to a wet bar over his shoulder. “As you can see, I keep liquor here for entertaining clients.”


They were interrupted by a knock on the door. Suzie Case stuck her head in the door. “Sorry, Dad. Eddie will be here in a second. We had a problem locating Scott to take over early, but they’re doing the change-over now.”


“That’s fine,” Case said. “Hang around awhile, honey. It might be a while before we leave.” He got up and followed her out of the office. “I’ll bring him down here.”


Johnson turned toward Keith. The detective made a face and shrugged his shoulders. There wasn’t much to say. Case was gone for only a minute or two before he returned with Fast Eddie and made the introductions.


Johnson focused on the deejay. During the first part of a homicide investigation, first meetings with everyone who could possibly be involved were important. He saw nothing out of the ordinary, just an athletically trim, nice looking man in his late 20s, dressed casually in jeans and a T-shirt. He had a face full of sharp features and a thick head of light brown hair. The handshake was firm and his palm was dry.


“It’s nice to meet you guys,” Eddie said. He was smiling and trying to be charming, as if he was meeting with a group of fans. “What can I do for you?”


Johnson turned toward Case. “Can we use your office for a few minutes…alone?”


“Now, Lieutenant, I think I should…”


“Keith,” Johnson interrupted. His patience was gone. The detective got up, ushered Case out of the office and closed the door.


Johnson turned back to the deejay. “Have a seat, Eddie.”


Eddie sat in one of the chairs as Johnson eased down on the edge of the desk. Keith returned to his place on the couch, notepad in hand.


“When did you last speak with your wife?”


Eddie frowned. “About five this afternoon, just before I left the apartment. Why? What’s going on? Is Rhonda okay?”


“She didn’t call or anything after you came to work?”


“No sir,” Eddie answered quickly. “I don’t take any calls or see anyone after I go on the air. She knows this. She wouldn’t call unless there was an emergency. Has anything happened to her?”


Johnson hated this part. Eddie was looking him straight in the eye. He leaned over and gently placed a hand on the smaller man’s shoulder. “Eddie,” he said softly, knowing he had to come right out with it, “your wife is dead.”


Eddie’s face tightened and the muscles in his jaw pulsed. “What?” he asked quietly as if he hadn’t heard.


It was Johnson who was not staring intently. “I’m sorry, son, she’s dead.”


Eddie shook his head, trying to comprehend the words he was hearing. “What?”


“Your wife is dead.”


Eddie swallowed hard a couple of times, then stood up, fists clenched. “What happened?”


Johnson stared hard at him and gave him a straight, cold statement. “She was found murdered in your apartment earlier tonight.”


Eddie shook his head again. There must be some kind of a mistake.”


“I wish there was, kid,” Johnson said. “The apartment manager identified her body.”


Eddie’s chin dropped. Although his eyes were wide open, he seemed to be focused on nothing. “Oh, God, I’m going to be sick.”


Eddie rushed around Case’s desk and through a door, evidently leading into a private bathroom where he threw up in the toilet. Johnson gave Keith a jerk of his head and the detective followed Eddie through the door. A few moments later, he returned and nodded to Johnson indicating that Eddie had really thrown up. A couple of minutes passed before Eddie emerged, wiping his face with a paper towel.


“Excuse me, I…oh God…” He began sobbing.


Johnson grabbed his arm gently and guided him to the couch. “Eddie, I know this is a shock, but we need information. The quicker we get it, the quicker we can find the killer. Let me start with the obvious: Do you know anyone who would want to harm your wife?”


Eddie was staring into space, shaking his head back and forth. The Lieutenant leanded down and looked into his eyes, but Eddie could see nothing. Johnson gave Keith a nod and the detective brought the manager back into the office.


“Mr. Case, Eddie’s wife was murdered tonight in their apartment,” Johnson said. He saw the man stiffen. “He’s in shock. He’s probably going to need a doctor and definitely a place to stay for the night. We’ve sealed off his apartment until the investigation is completed. Can you handle that?”


“Oh, my God,” Case said. “Of course.”


Johnson handed him a card. “My phone number is one it. Tomorrow morning when he wakes up, I’ll need him to come in and answer some questions. I also need to take him to his place to see if he can help us piece this thing together.”


Case nodded. “I’ll handle it. Can you tell me anything more?”


Johnson shook his head. “Only that his wife was murdered, tonight, evidently while he was on the air. It looks like it was done by someone who knew her. I’ll probably need to question anybody that works here who knew her. I’ll be back in touch with you Monday morning.”


Case sat down on the sofa and put an arm around Eddie’s shoulders. Johnson looked at them for several moments, motioned to Keith and they walked out the door.


(Continued until next week.)



Somehow, it all made sense. The Las Vegas Strip…Siegfried And Roy…$4.95 steak and lobster buffet…Tony Orlando in concert…the Chicken Ranch…white tiers in a glass cage…the Hitmakers Convention. Las Vegas lost Wayne Newton, but it gained Barry Fiedel…if only for a weekend.

Actually, Las Vegas, with or without Barry or any convention, is a perfect place for the radio and record communities to gather. The hype is turned way up, millions are spent promoting meaningless images, sleaze is evident everywhere, billboards boast slogans, there are hundreds of great restaurants, thousands of games are available, American Express is honored everywhere and cash plays. But best of all, there a re lots of places to hide.

Any visit to Las Vegas starts with a plane trip. And the flights themselves tell all. On the way over, the plane is filled with excitement. Laughter is prevalent, people are quick to share their winning philosophy, the guy beside you willingly offers his “can’t miss” roulette system, the pleasing aroma of cologne and perfume fills the air, clothes are pressed, fresh and often brand new toasts are offered, conquests are promised and, more often than not, the passengers break into applause when the wheels touch down on the runway. The return flight is quite different. There is little talk…only grunts and grumbles. The atmosphere is more like a funeral. Most passengers are asleep or in states of depression. Drinks are gulped quickly. And the air is full of sweat and thick with the smell of defeat.

But in between those flights, the world is yours…and all that’s in it. If you consistently hit 14 and get a 7. Or roll 6 the hard way three times straight.

The actual Hitmakers convention was secondary to all of the other things going on in Las Vegas. And maybe that was the way it should be. It was a good place to be if you were a radio programmer from a smaller market. With at least a 15-to-1 ratio of record folds to those in radio, if you could actually add a record somewhere, the odds were good that you might be treated with some modicum of respect.

The panel exhibiting the most fireworks was the “Face To Face” gathering Saturday afternoon. Those in the audience got “up close and personal” with several programmers and a couple of members of the trade press. Many questions were asked (including at least two disjointed seemingly drug-induced ramblings) and none were adequately answered, although a consensus could have been mustered that more cash could stimulate more airplay.

The main point, if there was one, was that now more than ever before, each radio station in each market looks to individual statistics to determine whether or not to add a record. “Top 10” and “Most Added” seem to play a significantly smaller part than ever before when adding records. How a record fits the particular station’s format and how well the record is selling in the local market are the important criteria. The audience missed what I believe was a significant point. More and more radio programmers are using their own criteria and “gut” instincts in formulating their playlists. For years, those in the record community abhorred research and computer facts when used by radio station to make record decisions.

Now, with PPWs, BDS and SoundScan, the record community is using research and computer facts to convince radio programmers to add records. Those arguments are falling on deaf ears.

Record promoters cannot depend on generalized research to convince radio programmers to add their records. Specific knowledge of individual stations and markets are the keys…if indeed, there are any real keys.

On the flip side of the coin, radio programmers must view a single’s track record nationally. It stands to reason that if a record is selling and performing extremely well across the country, at least it bears consideration for play on your station. When I was programming, I always kept an eye on national charts, not to decide my playlist, but to make sure I wasn’t missing something viable. National airplay and sales are particularly important because your audience is exposed to product (through music videos, syndicated shows and other outlets) that wasn’t available in years past. Although you might make decisions on what is best for your radio station and your audience, don’t believe that you are their only source of service. Consider all factors when making a decision.

Random thoughts and observations: Daniel Glass was picked up at the airport by some long-haired guys in a Four-By-Four; Todd Cavanah needs to work on his golf swing, but he’s got the cursing part down pat; Burt Baumgartner is a class act; Ken Benson will laugh if the jokes are funny; Marc Benesch has perfected his “Houdini” routine; Bruce Tenenbaum is getting there; Barb Seltzer works the big rooms better than anyone and Dale Cannone works the alleys; Tony Novia could be one of the smartest people in radio; Mark Bolke wasn’t serious; Jerry Blair “you no plan;” Bob Greenberg had a birthday; Jeffrey Blalock stands tall, but Bruce Reiner slouches taller; Bill Pfordresher can’t throw dice (neither could anyone else); Dave Robbins has quietly turned WNCI around; Dave Ferguson is the best kept programming secret in the country; Chuck Field is second; Charlie Walk looks good in cowboy boots; Greg Thompson and Valerie DeLong work radio; Rick Stacy didn’t want to talk about trades; Joel didn’t either; Mark Gorlick and Bruce Schoen were separated at birth; Hilary needs a new last name; Michael Marti has a new hair stylist; Laure Holder is Seattle’s shining star; Louis Caplan knows exactly what he’s doing; Marc Rather bets the don’t pass line; Dave Shakes gave good advice to a questioner who didn’t listen; Ron Geslin can stay up past midnight; Justin Fontaine can also; Craig Coburn actually won money; David Leach hit ‘em long; Joe Riccitelli spent Friday night downtown; Steve Richards had a great “thinner” story; Billy Brill is a story himself and Hix still hits ‘em dead right under pressure.

Questions that weren’t asked: What did Barry do with his white shoes? Where was Bobby Poe?

Questions that weren’t answered: Are there any radio people at this table? Who’s picking up the tab? Is that guy eating the lobster with a station? Why are we here?

And the only question I care about: Was I funny or what?



There’s a cool wind whistling through the canyons of our industry. Not quite the Hawk, but certainly an icy portent of things to come.

Beware! The Ides of March hasn’t held this much promise since Willie penned the verse hundreds of years ago.

It’s safe to say that by the time the big, ugly hog that is our industry quits thrashing, belching and banging his head against the trees, the smoke will have long cleared.

The state of independents will be more like a state of independence, as individual record companies will make decisions and payments based on their opinion of a radio station’s importance. Parallel status means nothing. Unless you’re comparing how close you were to the epicenter of the latest tremors in Southern California.

You can book a couple of facts. Record companies will no longer be compensating independent record promoters on radio stations merely because they have arrangements with the stations. A quid-pro-quo will be mandatory.

And the vice will definitely be versa. Independent record promoters will no longer be able to guarantee large payments to radio stations in return for early access to their lists.

Yet one question remains: How did we get ourselves in such a mess?

Paying a radio station for record information is bogus no matter how it’s explained. Rationalizations have mainly been exchanged between record companies and radio stations. Of course, the lawyers are quick to say the practice is not illegal. Which is as big an endorsement as claiming, “…it doesn’t cause cancer.”

The Network Forty has learned that the FCC may not agree with their assumption. In fact, future station license renewals will focus on several key points, one of them being the relationship of the licensee with independent record promoters. The question won’t be whether or not it is illegal, but is it within the rules of the FCC? My dog is pointing at the fish in the trees.

Radio stations that depended on those dollars will be forced to look elsewhere. And if they’re smart, they won’t have to look far. There’s not a record company in the world that won’t support radio stations that are on the cutting edge in breaking new product. Small stations that depend on independent dollars will have to become little points of light in exposing records. (Remember how it used to be? When records broke out of smaller markets because they had the opportunity to test more unfamiliar product than competitive major markets?)

What goes around, comes around and more often than not in our industry, it comes around quick.

Positioning lately has become more of a record industry term than radio as many independents are hurrying to form new alliances. All are reading the writing on the wall, some with better clarity than others.

Make no mistake about it. It has been written. The change has begun. Only the final outcome has yet to be determined. Are we witnessing the indies’ Last Crusade or will it be a Temple of Doom?

Record companies gave independent record promoters plenty of notice that this change was going to happen. However, instead of using time to develop relationships, many have tried to continue the status quo. Only now are they realizing that it is too late. Those outdated agreements are being exposed for what they are…pieces of paper. Nothing more.

SETEC Astronomy is out of business.

Although independent record promoters did not invent the system, many are guilty of abusing it. But rather than worry about what will happen when record companies begin a compensation based on yank, the good ones welcome it.

If you’ve got yank, you can use it. If you have no influence and you’re just getting information early, all you’re doing is just yanking yourself.

Sensitive Editorial


In today’s world, it is easy to be cruel, easy to be hard, it’s easy to say no. Heaven knows, The Network Forty and even I, yes, I have on occasion stopped to criticize.

From time to time, some of our readers have questioned our motives and have been concerned with the tone of selected editorials and (of course) the occasional nudity on Page 6. For those who believe we have been overly critical or mean-spirited, this editorial (and the entire magazine) is dedicated to you.

Throughout this issue of The Network Forty, you will find words, pictures and ideas that will serve as a calming influence for the hectic world in which we live. From the cover and the picture on Page 6 to the “mood page” and pie charts, we will attempt to uplift your spirits and soothe your frayed nerves. Since California is a state of mind, I would first ask that we all join in a cosmic hand-holding for 30 seconds, followed by the required group hug. (Editor’s note: If you’re reading this in Hollywood, you can end with an “air” kiss.) Now that we’ve set the mood, let me begin.

First, I would like to compliment R&R. You may pause for a few minutes here to regain your composure. For more than 20 years, this publication has been “the industry’s newspaper.” We should be grateful because our industry really needs a newspaper. What other trade publication can be used for packing plates and glasses or for wrapping the fish we catch on those spiritual retreats to our favorite lake? We love R&R. We particularly like the black print that rubs off on our hands, because when we see it, we are reminded that ll people should work together as one, without regard to race, creed or color. Although some are critical of the size of R&R’s sample of reporting stations, we should look at this as a positive. Those in the record industry can concentrate their efforts rather than call every station across the country. And the radio stations that aren’t in the sample are given a goal to shoot for. And what other publication would establish vague, yet complicated guidelines for reporting status? R&R, in its Zen-like methodology, keeps us forever praying, meditating, guessing and wondering.

When can you be a reporting station, Grasshopper? When you take the pebble from Joel’s hand.

And what about Joel? He’s such a nice guy…a genuine person who’s quick to share his beliefs with anyone who asks…even if few do. And he’s so sanitary. To insure no loose hairs ever drop into a companion’s plate of food, he wears his in a ponytail. It’s proof positive that Joel cares more about the environment than fashion.

I want this on the record: Even if I’m one, lone voice crying out in the wilderness, I believe R&R’s monitor system will be up and running in three major markets in September.

Hitmakers certainly lives up to their name. Bob Greenberg is a prince among princes and I, for one, could sit at the bare feet of Barry Fiedel and listen to him pontificate for hours.

And what can I say about Gavin that hasn’t already been said? Organized by the man who coined the phrase, “Be nice to the people who are paid to be nice to you,” the tradition continues. Two names say it all: Dave Sholin and Ben Fong-Torres. They’re linked interchangeably and will walk hand-in-hand into the Music Hall of Fame.

Billboard and BDS have formed a combination that is without parallel (no pun intended). Michael Ellis is to charts what Michelangelo is to modern art. BDS is without doubt the most accurate monitoring service this side of NASA. Their technology has indeed changed the face of our industry and unlike others who have gone before, they are quick to address any problems that have arisen.

Arbitron. I will adhere to the old expression, “If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all.”

In is my sincere hope that you get half as much joy out of reading this editorial as I got in composing it. Can’t we all be friends? Can’t we come together and do good? Is it possible, in today’s day and age, to work together for a positive universe?

If we try, we can do it.

This next week, smile. Help your brother or sister when they are down. Give food or shelter to the homeless. Pledge your help to the flood victims. Spare some change.



God bless us, everyone.

(Editor’s Note: Gerry Cagle wrote this editorial under a doctor’s care while visiting an Oregon ashram. He was also, we assume, under heavy medication. He is schedule for release later this week and expected to be his vociferous self by next week’s edition.)