This is a house with a lot of visitors. People come & go, buying & selling, dealing & drinking–all day, all night. The proprietor is a colorful character, bragging about his wealth. So when the proprietor is murdered, there is an extraordinary range of suspects. Lt. Joe’s metaphor keeps expanding, from a “Yankee stadium full of suspects,” then yet more suspects filling the stands, & then, when he sees the extent of drugs involved, two Yankee stadiums.
But, after all, the murderer turns out to be the girl friend. Isn’t the significant other always the number one suspect? Though it’s not clear in the show, in real life, Lt. Joe did zero in on the girl friend sooner rather than later. Real life doesn’t have the cliff hangers of TV plots.
Most quoted line: “I see dead people in my dreams. Not from the movies. Real dead people.” In case you missed the source of the original line, “I see dead people,” or its many variations & parodies, it’s from the 1999 movie, Sixth Sense.
Summary: It’s 1990, with a game of cards going on in a working class neighborhood of Colorado Springs. The five card players let themselves in, & they go about their game, even though the man who lives there, Jamie Foster, isn’t at the door to welcome them. This is a house where people cheerfully come & go, at all hours. To the card-playing visitors, the only sign of a host is a blanket-covered person on the couch. They assume that’s someone sleeping, most likely Jamie’s girl friend, Leona, known as Oni.
Card playing for money is only one of assorted businesses Jamie conducts in this house. Another man, Charles Miller, appears looking for Jamie. He wants to make a deal for car parts. Since none of the card players knows where Jamie is, Charles goes to wake up Oni.
When he gets no response, he pulls back the blanket. There, lying dead all this time, is the murdered body of Jamie Foster.
When the news comes in, Lt. Joe is attending the autopsy of a suicide victim. (It’s rarely just another day at the office for a homicide detective.)
Lt. Joe finds the body shot twice in the stomach & once in the head. Relaxed positioning makes it look as if Jamie was shot while he was asleep. There is no sign of a fight. There is no cover up other than the blanket. One clue is scrape & drag marking on the porch & driveway, as if someone had recently removed something heavy.
Lt. Joe finds other indications of the various businesses that Jamie ran from his house, such as a large supply of alcohol & cigarettes. Jamie was the neighborhood entrepreneur & purveyor. He ran a sort of pawn shop. He ran a home-based late-night club where he sold alcohol after hours. He bought & sold cars.
Nevertheless, Lt. Joe notes, “Everything about this is vague, & one thing I don’t like is vague.” As he interviews, he hears one story repeating, that Jamie bragged about having money. But that leaves him with “a field of suspects that could fill Yankee stadium.”
He interviews the five card players first. He finds that, with so many people going in & out of the house at all hours, it’s not unusual to find Jamie absent or sleeping. Lt. Joe releases four of the card players, but decides to interrogate one of them, John Baker. John Baker has a key to the house. He arrived first for the card game & was alone in the house for some period of time before the others arrived. He says it’s normal not to have a schedule in that house. He often finds Jamie or Oni asleep, especially since they tended to have worked all night at the after-hours club.
John Baker reveals that Jamie had been fearful & angry lately. He had complained of weird hang-up phone calls. He had started carrying a 38 revolver.
This is progress. A medical examination shows that 38 caliber bullets were what killed Jamie. Could he have been killed with his own gun? (No cliff hanger here: The answer is yes.)
Furthermore, John Baker notices that a safe is missing from the closet. Marks on the carpet show where the safe dragged across. Those marks fit in with the scrapes & drag marks on the porch & driveway. The difficulty of moving such a heavy object provides one more clue: There may well have been more than one perpetrator.
But everyone knew about the safe. Rumors abounded that it was full of cash, diamonds, & who knows what other valuables. As far as the number of suspects, we’re “back in Yankee stadium, & the stands are full.”
Police search for Jamie’s missing car. When they find it, they approach cautiously. But instead of a dangerous killer driving it, they find a woman, terrified, unarmed. Nothing inside the car or trunk is at all suspicious. The woman says Jamie gave her the car to drive because she was thinking of buying it. This turns out to be just a prolonged test drive.
At this point, Lt. Joe says, “Everything is complicated & confused.”
Jamie’s girl friend Oni is still missing, & that’s suspicious. Police find a man who may be her second or would-be boy friend. He is Fidel, a driver for UPS. He tells them something that changes the case. Oni, he says, is a major drug addict, with a habit that could cost more than $500 a day. Drug involvement means “another stadium full of suspects, including her.”
Why is Oni missing? Did she–or others in the drug world–have their eyes on Jamie’s money?
Lt. Joe is optimistic about finding Oni. As he says, “People like this don’t know how to run.” Police search motels that cater to the down & out. They search pawn shops.
They find a pawn broker, Bob Smith. He says a regular at the shop is sudden flush with money, buying back things he had pawned just shortly before. His name is Michael Parsons, & his address is on an old receipt.
When police arrive, Michael is “all about denial.” He says he doesn’t know Jamie. He doesn’t know Oni. He can’t keep eye contact. He’s lying. Finally, under classic Lt. Joe questioning, Michael confesses he had gone to Jamie’s house to help Oni move the safe. Oni had told Michael that Jamie is not there, & as Lt. Joe points out, “In a way, she’s right.” The safe was heavy, hard to move, & difficult to pry open. When they did get it open, they found all too little money. “That had to be a disappointment,” Lt. Joe says. After that, Michael says he took Oni to the bus station. He says he hasn’t heard from her since.
Police charge Michael as an accessory to murder, along with first-degree burglary.
Oni calls & says she wants to surrender. “We accept surrender,” deadpans Lt. Joe.
Oni has quite a story. She says she took the bus to Kansas City to escape the four men who barged in, knocked her down, & killed Jamie. The men dragged the safe as far as the driveway & then found it was too heavy to take further. The story becomes more & more convoluted. “If she’s not the worst liar on the planet,” says Lt. Joe, “she’s in the top five.”
Police lock up Oni. Eventually, she confesses. She had heard Jamie bragging about the contents of the safe, & she decided on stealing what she thought would be a large amount of money. She found Jamie asleep on the couch. She shot him with his own gun. She is convicted of second-degree murder & sentenced to 24 years in prison.
As Lt. Joe says, she was just looking for another hit–& willing to murder to get it.
Nicknames: Leona Geraldine Jones went by the nickname Oni. Often, in the underworld of drugs & crime, people are known only by nicknames–for them, a welcome anonymity.
The Safe: Although there was someone willing to kill to possess it (not to mention that Yankee stadium full of suspects who probably thought about stealing from it), this was really just a cheap safe, intended as fire protection, not burglary proof. Witness that a couple of non expert bumblers were able to pry it open.
The Accomplice: Michael Parsons served twelve years in prison for his role in this crime. Why is there always someone willing to go along as accessory to crime, no matter how heinous or dangerous? That’s a question with no answer.
A Business Mentality: Lt. Joe tells me there’s “always a Jamie,” in certain neighborhoods. This Jamie served a useful function in his neighborhood. People admired him. In addition to his other enterprises, Jamie also sold drugs. He fenced stolen property. He had served three years in jail. Producers for the show don’t mention quite all the illegal enterprises, as they wish to maintain our sympathy for Jamie. But who doesn’t feel sympathy for a murder victim, no matter who he was? No one deserves murder.
The Perpetrator: Oni was so seriously addicted to crack cocaine that she would not have been able to function as a drug dealer, except on the outer fringes of that underworld. Her physical health had begun to decline, too. Lt. Joe does not know what happened to her, but doubt she survived her time in prison.
The Title: Oh, we could go for less snarky titles. Show some respect!