Periodically this page will feature short stories that in some way relate to the other pages in
this ezine: show biz, motion pictures, opera, awards, comics, soap operas, the performing arts, books, stories of the macabre,
mysteries, writers, actors, singers, etc. Here's our first story:
THE RAT PACK MURDERS by WILLIAM SCHOELL
Copyright 2004 by William Schoell. William Schoell is co-author
of THE RAT PACK: Neon Nights with the Kings of Cool
"Where's Charlie?" everybody asked when
there was some trouble in the Sands Hotel and casino, which Sully Vandemere resented because when Charlie was out he, Sully,
was supposed to be in charge. Charlie had taken off for an impromptu date with his girlfriend, who'd unexpectedly gotten the
night off, but Sully wasn't supposed to tell anyone that. Most of his time as first assistant house detective he spent, in
fact, covering for Charlie.
This time the enquirer-after-Charlie was Jerry Landers, head of room
service, whose office was right next door. "You won't believe what just happened," he told Sully. "Peter Lawford just called
and said there was a body in his room. Charlie better get up to suite 600 post haste."
he call room service?" Sully wanted to know. There was a direct line to the security office listed on the phone in every room.
"How do I know? Snookered, I guess. Will you just tell Charlie to get up there, okay?"
another call. I'll go."
Jerry looked as if Sully had to be joking, but he said nothing. Sully had only
had his position for a year and a half but already outranked the other assistant H.D.s; the problem was that he
practically looked like a minor. Although nearing thirty he looked almost ten years younger. He was a good-looking, strapping
Irish lad born Patrick Sullivan who resented it when his mother left his father for a man named Vandemere -- Vandemere later
adopted him -- and retaliated by taking dad's nickname as his own.
Sully brushed past the
open-mouthed Landers and headed toward the employee elevator bank around the corner. Peter Lawford! He had always admired
those Rat Pack guys -- Frank and Dino and Sammy -- and while Lawford was a lesser Rat Packer he was still one of the bunch.
And the President's brother-in-law no less. Inside the car he pushed "six" and ascended with excitement.
A couple of years ago, in 1959, before Sully worked at the Sands, the Rat Pack had made Ocean's 11 in Las Vegas and
held their "summit conference of cool" at this very hotel. It was pandemonium, with every room taken and twelve special security
guards hired by Sinatra. Charlie had told him that women had tried to bribe him with everything from money to their bodies
to let them hide in one of the boys' rooms, but Charlie had told them, regretfully, that there was no way to get past that
special security squadron. Some of the members looked like they ate hotel security men for breakfast. Charlie hadn't told
Sully that Lawford nor any other Rat Packers were currently in the hotel; he wondered how many security men would be waiting
up in suite 600.
"Gosh! That's a body all right."
Seeing a corpse, even if the dead man only looked like he was sleeping, was more unsettling in reality than it was in private
detective novels, Sully realized as he stared down at the man. Peter Lawford had admitted Sully into his suite and taken him
directly to the bathroom. He walked jauntily, merrily, as it he were going to a party. Sully realized that the actor had imbibed
quite a bit of alcohol.
The dead man was in his late forties or early fifties. He seemed short,
stocky, with thinning black hair brushed back from the forehead, a broad head, mean lips. He was dressed in a pin striped
suit that had seen better days. Someone had just thrust him backwards into the empty bathtub. If it wasn't for his odd position
-- and the knife jutting out of his chest -- you would have thought he was taking a nap. Sully checked for a pulse or breathing.
The man was definitely dead.
"W-Who is he?" Sully inquired.
"That's just it,"
Lawford said in that jaunty British accent of his. "I can't place him. I came back from dinner and -- there he was. In my
bathtub. Peculiar, don't you think? What do you make of it?"
Sully had no idea what to make of
it. What if Lawford were the murderer? What would Charlie have done?
"You mustn't call the police,"
"No. That won't do. I'm the brother-in-law
of the President of the United States. Scandal, you know."
Sully understood. Charlie had told
him that first and foremost their duty was to protect the reputation of their guests. The police -- who were contemptuous
of house dicks -- were to be called in only as a last resort. There had been that famous French actress who'd stolen a valuable
necklace from another guest's room. That had all been settled quietly and hushed up. Both the actress and her victim had been
back to the Sands many times. But still -- this was murder!
"Uh," Sully said. "What about your
"Haven't got any."
Frank takes care of all that. And just between you and me, we're a little on the outs, he and I. Pat and I had an argument,
Sully knew he must mean Pat Kennedy, his wife and
the President's sister.
"Frank doesn't like my brother-in-law
getting mad at me," Lawford added.
"Aren't there secret service agents assigned to you?"
Lawford laughed. "To me? The least and lowliest of the Kennedys? Even if they offered I'd turn 'em down. Who wants coppers
breathing down your neck all the time, reporting to Pat everything I do? No thank you. Care for a drink, young man?"
"Uh, I'm on duty." Sully's mind raced, trying to figure out what to do. Going to the manager would be an admission of failure,
a sign that he couldn't handle the very particular stresses of this position. Besides, the manager would only say: "Where's
"I've got an idea," Peter said, putting his arm around Sully's shoulder. "Why don't you go
talk to Frank?"
"Of course. He and Dean are in the
hotel. So's Sammy, somewhere. Tell him the situation. He'll listen to you. He can get his goons to come in and see if they
recognize the body. That's a start, don't you think?"
"Gee, that's a great idea, Mr. Lawford."
"I happen to know he's in the very next suite."
Good. Hotel policy had it that Charlie,
who was head of security, could be informed of special guests' whereabouts, but it was at his discretion to tell others on
his staff. He rarely shared information with Sully unless it was absolutely necessary.
"I'll go talk
to him right now," Sully said.
Lawford headed for the bar.
Sully was afraid Sinatra would think he was just another fan until he remembered that he wore
the hotel security uniform. He was about to knock on the door to Suite 601 when he noticed it was ajar. Loud music came from
within. He knocked but knew it was futile; no one would hear him over the racket. With some trepidation he stepped inside
the suite and looked around.
"Hello, is anybody here?" he shouted. "Hotel security!" He hoped
The Voice didn't think he was coming to complain about The Noise.
The music dropped a bit in volume
and somebody stepped out of an inner room. Sully braced himself. This guy is my idol! But it wasn't Frank. It was Dino!
Sully tried not to act like a gawky school kid. "Oh, hello Mr. Martin. I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you." Through the half-open
door he saw a flash of long red hair. A woman giggled, and another woman began singing along to the record that was playing.
That Dino -- what a card!
Dino also seemed a little snookered but he was more receptive to Sully
-- considering what Sully was interrupting -- than he would have expected. Sully quickly explained the whole situation.
"Leave it to Peter to have a dead body in his room instead of a live one," Dino chuckled. The women giggled as if they had
heard him. "Let's go see if I can get him out of this mess." As he ushered Sully out of the suite, he said, "You didn't
leave any knives lying around with him, did you?"
As they entered suite 600 it occurred to Sully,
not for the first time, that no one, even he, was reacting in an appropriate manner. He didn't know the dead man, but still
he was dead, stabbed, and it wasn't right. He felt sorry for the fellow.
Dino marched past Peter without
greeting him and made straight for the bathroom. He bent down over the bath tub, took a look, and came right back out.
"Nope. Don't know him. Bye."
He headed for the exit.
At the door he turned
around and winked. "Got somethin' cookin.' By the way, there ain't no body in the bath tub."
"Sure you don't want a drink?" Peter said.
Sully looked at Peter and
then raced into the bathroom.
Dino was right. The body was gone!
"What did you do with the corpse, Mr. Lawford?" Sully asked Peter.
Peter went into the bathroom,
looked, and came out again. Peter shrugged like a simpleton. "That's funny. I went into my bedroom to find my cigarettes.
The damn things kept eluding me. Finally found them halfway under the bed. Somebody must have removed the body while I was
busy searching for the fags."
Sully didn't know whether to believe him or not.
He sat down on the sofa. He could have used a drink but he thought of what to do instead. "Do you have any idea where Frank
Peter gulped some scotch. "None -- and I don't care."
to the suite opened all of a sudden and both men jumped. A whirling black dervish only a few feet high swept into the room
and stopped in front of the couch.
It was Sammy Davis Jr.
Hello kid. How's tricks? I ran into Dino in the corridor. He said something about a body. Peter -- thank God it isn't yours."
He sat down on the couch next to an astonished Sully and said:
"Kid, there's one thing you've
got to remember about the Rat Pack. Wherever we go there are bodies. Stoned bodies, drunk bodies, pooped-out, tired bodies.
Bodies insensate from too much sex. You know what I mean. You didn't see a corpse -- Peter didn't see a corpse. You both just
thought it was a corpse. It was just somebody who's had too much booze, too much sex, too much food -- and not nearly enough
sleep. We Rat Pack People love to partayy, don't you know?"
"Uh, Mr. Junior, sir. I mean, Mr.
Davis. Junior. I mean -- ."
"Spit it out, kid."
"The body had a knife
in its chest."
Sammy got to his feet. His whole expression and demeanor changed. The snappy midget
now looked like a bum with his foot caught on a railroad tie as the 5:57 was rolling in.
I'm gettin' my black ass outa here before I get caught up in this. You know somehow they'll blame it on me! Peter -- can't
you call up the Kennedys and have them fix things? Oh, what am I saying! Peter -- I don't know what he did but next time just
slap 'im, okay?"
"Sammy, you ninny. I didn't do it. Can you picture me stabbing someone to death?"
"Good luck," Sammy said. And he was gone.
"Et tu, Sammy," Peter said, pouring himself another
drink. He looked at his watch. "Must get ready for my appointment soon. I do hope you'll be able to clear up this mess in
an hour or so. I'm frightfully busy this evening."
"I'll do my best, sir. But without a
corpse, there really isn't a mess, is there sir?"
Peter brightened at that. "I expect you're right."
He lifted his glass in a silent cheer and took another swallow.
Sully knew he'd have to get the
other assistants in on this. They'd have to scour the hotel for the body. It was the only thing -- the right thing -- to do.
He wondered if Charlie were back.
The phone in the security office was answered by Ray Stewart,
another assistant, who said he'd better come down quick. Charlie was still out and one of the maids was getting hysterical
about something and wanted to see him, Sully, right away.
Sully flew out of the suite and yelled
over his shoulder, "I'll report back when I can, Mr. Lawford."
The maid was the oddly named
but very pretty Angel Spinner, who was Sully's girlfriend. She had long black hair, red lips, and a buxom figure. Now her
face was as pale as whale blubber and she looked as if she were about to collapse.
you are! Come upstairs -- come upstairs quick! Wait'll you see what I found in the linen closet."
When she told him she'd made the gruesome find on the sixth floor, he was pretty certain what it was but he had to make sure.
What if it were another corpse? He was relieved, if that was the word, to find the same old stiff staring up at him like a
surprised, open-mouthed sturgeon from its dainty perch of pretty pink sheets and towels. The knife had been removed from the
body's chest and was nowhere to be seen.
"It's him," he said.
"Not exactly, poor fellow."
"It's so horrible,"
Angel said, wiping tears from her cheeks.
"Don't worry. We'll get to the bottom of it. I've got
to find Frank. He'll know what to do."
"Sinatra. He's in
the hotel. Did you know that?"
Angel smirked. "We girls in housecleaning know everything. He's
in suite 601 down the hall."
"He's supposed to be. But Dean Martin's in there with two girls.
Angel nodded. "They were having a party this afternoon after they flew in. They weren't scheduled,
but Judy Garland is sick and can't go on tonight in the Copa room so the boys are filling in."
Sully hated it when the maids knew more than he did, even if one of them were his girlfriend. "Security should have been informed
"Security was told! At least Charlie was. Sully, you have to worm your way into Charlie's
confidence. You're his primary assistant. You can't go on depending on me for tips. Not that I mind but -- I want you to make
good!" She gave him a kiss.
When he was embarrassed Sully somehow developed a slight brogue that he
hadn't had since childhood. "Now that's enough of that on company time!" Angels' brogue, on the other hand, was quite pronounced
whenever she was worried or romantic.
Angel closed the door to the linen closet and said, "What
are we to do? Oh, this has been some day. A body with the linen. And that horrible spooky woman creeping about."
"What horrible woman?"
"I see her everywhere. A crone fixing me with the evil eye. A face like
a she-devil, all warty and ugly like a witch. She creeps about down the halls, as if she's lookin' for something, maybe babies
to eat or a body to murder." Angel gasped and put her hand to her mouth. "Maybe she's the one that murdered that poor
man in the closet!"
"Now, Angel, you can't judge by appearances, but if I see her I'll ask her
a question or two, don't you worry. I've got to see if Charlie's back."
"I've got work to do!
What do I do about the sheets?" Angel asked, stricken. "Don't ask me to touch that body!"
get one of the guys to help me move it," he said. "In the meantime, wash the floors or something."
Downstairs he hunted down the four other assistant security men who were playing poker in an empty conference room. Charlie
was still not back. He told them the whole story as they dashed up to the sixth floor to see the body.
Charlie led the group up to the linen closet and opened the door. He heard a thud behind him but there was no time to wonder
what it was.
The body was gone.
Angel was missing, the Rat Pack
were performing on stage, the ugly women with the evil eye was nowhere to be found, and the corpse was still missing. Down
in the security office Sully was enduring the razzing of his life.
"You never met Peter Lawford
or Sammy Davis Junior," Ed "Pinky" Evans said with disgust. "Who are you trying to kid? Dean Martin wouldn't even spit on
"Who are you to talk, Pinky?" Sully said. "You fainted when I opened the linen closet and
there wasn't even a dead body in there."
After making the discovery that the body was gone Sully
had turned around to see what had made that thud and nearly fainted himself when he saw another body lying behind him in the
corridor. For the next few minutes Pinky again became the butt of the jokes although he insisted that he had only become dizzy
and passed out because of a bad reaction to his sinus medication.
"Where is Charlie?" someone
asked. "Don't tell us he's in the hotel, Sully, 'cause we know better. Who's the broad this time?" The guys all giggled.
"Never mind," he said. "We've got more important things to do."
"Well, don't expect us to
help you search the whole hotel for a corpse that doesn't exist ," Ray Stewart said. They were supposed to follow Sully's
orders when Charlie wasn't around but these boys were invariably insubordinate.
his arm at the bunch of them and walked out of the office. Perhaps he should apprise the manager of the situation. Charlie
would kill him. As he mulled over his limited options he unconsciously wandered into the lobby.
And bumped into the dead man, very much alive and walking about a mile a minute, muttering to himself and glaring. He was
now wearing a loud green suit and an even louder red tie.
The "corpse" glowered at Sully until
he got out of his way, then continued steam-rolling toward the elevators.
By the time Sully recovered
from his shock the man had disappeared.
NOTE: story continues after photos below
|"Mr. Lawford has a special guest or two."
Sully was mad at hell. He didn't like being made a fool of. Lawford had probably
used his charm to get Angel to go along with the gag -- or worse! -- and now he and she and Sammy and Dino were all laughing
at him, the gullible idiot. Well, he was going to give them all a piece of his mind! He was the first assistant house detective
and nobody's patsy!
When he got to Lawford's suite, he found it empty except for four screeching
girls who practically assaulted him before they realized he wasn't a member of the Rat Pack. He extricated himself with some
regret and went next door to suite 601. It was only when he was opening the still ajar door that he realized the members of
the Rat Pack were probably downstairs performing right this very moment.
Frank Sinatra was not
in evidence, only a bunch of tough-looking guys who were sitting at a round table in the lounge area playing cards and drinking
gin. "I hear the twins are in town," Sully overheard one of them say.
Then a familiar voice replied:
"Yeah? Well, I hear one twin is fooling around with the other one's wife."
Sully was surprised
to see that the speaker was Dean Martin, coming out of his room wearing a fresh suit. "I better get downstairs before the
act is all over," he said. He noticed Sully in the doorway and said to him, "Did they send you to get me? Don't worry. They
always hold the fort until I get out on stage."
As Dino hustled him out the door and over to the
elevator, Sully remembered that the man in the bath tub had definitely been stone cold dead. "Did I hear you say something
about twins, Mr. Martin?"
"Yeah. The Del Vecchio twins. Bad boys. Mobsters. Forget about 'em.
Young fella like you doesn't need to know about the Del Vecchios."
The elevator came and they
got on. "But sir, I'm security. Could you please describe the twins for me?"
Dino complied. As
Sully expected, the description matched the man in the bath tub, linen closet -- and who knew where else?
"Mr. Martin, sir, I think one twin murdered his brother. But why would he dump the body in Mr. Lawford's bath tub -- and then
"There you go talkin' about murder again. If there was a murder -- and I'm not saying
there wasn't -- you oughta know that the Del Vecchios hate the Rat Pack and would do anything to disgrace them. You should
also know that they're scared of Frank. He has friends in high places, if you know what I mean. Maybe one of them dumped
the body in the suite and then thought better of it. Maybe he figured it was best to get it outa the hotel, but they had to
do it in stages." They arrived at lobby level. "Who knows?"
Dino excused himself and went off
to the Copa room. Since Sully now knew who the body was -- and probably who the killer was, too -- he figured everything could
wait until Charlie finally got back from his date. Hopefully both the corpse and the murderer were by now out of the Sands,
which made it a problem for the police and not hotel security. Charlie could take care of the details.
Just then he saw Peter Lawford walking out of the hall that led to the Copa room. Apparently the Rat Pack members entertained
in relays; when one showed up another one could leave. Lawford got into an elevator before Sully could reach him. Sully decided
to go up to his suite to tell him that he had nothing to worry about and there would be no scandal.
This time the door to suite 600 was locked. Sully knocked and an angry, more sober Peter Lawford answered the door. The girls
"That damn body is back in my bath tub!" Lawford said, grabbing Sully and pulling him
inside. "What are you going to do about it? Don't you realize that I'm a Kennedy!"
him and went into the bath room. There it was, big as life. Only the dead man was now wearing a different suit. A green suit
with a red tie like the man he'd seen alive in the lobby a short while ago.
Now both brothers
"This is getting my dander up," Peter Lawford said, fixing a cocktail at the
bar. "Don't you know you can't leave hotel rooms lying around corpses and expect people to stay here again."
"Uh, I think you got it backwards, sir."
"Whatever. Call the cleaning staff and have them get
rid of that body post haste. A couple of very important visitors are coming in a moment and I cannot have either you
or that body here when they arrive."
The phone rang. Peter picked it up. He gasped. "She's already
on her way? Thank you. I appreciate your discretion. Yes, yes, he'll be coming up by the back stairway. Thank
you so much for your help."
He hung up the phone and turned to Sully. "She'll be here any minute.
I'll make sure she uses the bathroom in the bedroom. Now I want you to get out of sight," he hissed.
Sully wanted to exit the suite but Lawford insisted there was no time. His visitors did not want to be seen. He directed Sully
toward a second bedroom down the hall.
Lawford closed the door on him. In the darkness, Sully
heard a knock on the main door, then a woman's voice, some laughter. The woman's voice sounded very familiar but he
couldn't quite place it.
There was a sudden movement behind him. He reached out and turned on
the light switch.
Just as the light came on, he saw a woman rushing at him with a knife. Tied up on
the bed behind her was his girlfriend, Angel!
Before the knife could plunge into his chest Sully
grabbed the woman's arm and wrestled her for the weapon. The woman -- a homely middle-aged thing with heavy features -- grunted
and perspired but it did her no good. Sully had had training and he got the better of her in no time. Throwing the woman to
the floor, he ran over to Angel and used the knife he'd taken from his assailant to cut the torn sheets that bound her. By
the time the older woman was on her feet again, he was using those sheets to tie her up instead.
The crone with the evil eye spit on the floor. "He killed my lover," she said. "So I killed him with the same knife."
Angel said: "This is the witch I told you about! I saw her follow the dead man -- who was alive! -- into this suite. When
I investigated she jumped out and hit me on the head. Oh Sully -- you saved me! Let's get out of here and have the police
take this nasty old thing away." She headed for the door.
"Wait," he said, pulling her back.
He listened at the door. He could now hear two additional voices besides Lawford's. The second guest was a man but from behind
the thick bedroom door the voice was too indistinct to be recognized. "Mr. Lawford has a special guest or two. Let's wait
until he says it's okay to leave."
Angel was confused but she agreed.
Half an hour or so later Peter Lawford opened the door. He was surprised to see the two women, particularly the one tied up
on the floor. He looked at Sully with new admiration. "Kinky," he said. "I like it. Anyway, I need your help and I'm out of
Angel hung back while Peter led Sully over to a shapely woman wearing a black dress and
a dark veil. Blond curls stuck out from beneath the veil. "Please take my friend out of the hotel by the most surreptitious
route," he told Sully. "I'd be most grateful." As Sully's eyes nearly popped he handed him a fifty dollar bill. The male visitor
was nowhere to be seen and had probably already left.
Sully looked back at Angel, then escorted
the mystery woman out of the suite. He headed toward the back service elevator and within ten minutes they were at a special
rear exit that hardly anyone ever used. Beyond was a nearly empty parking lot.
"Thank you," said that
very familiar voice. She lifted her veil. Her face as it loomed in and she kissed him hard on the cheek was hidden by shadows
but he finally realized who it was. Oh my God, it's her! he thought.
Then she was gone.
Dreamily he stood in the doorway for a few moments, soaking in the warm night air and fantasizing. Past the parking lot he
saw a long stretch limo driving by. On its side door was the Presidential seal.
and wondered if it had something to do with the mystery male guest he had never gotten a look at. Why not? He is his brother-in-law,
Can't blame the President for wanting to meet Marilyn Monroe, he thought.
Before he went back to the suite he checked to see if Charlie was back. Charlie was in the security office, regaling the other
fellows with tales of his dubious escapades. They all looked up when Sully came in and stared at him. Ray Stewart nudged Pinky
with his elbow and chuckled.
"What the heck have you been up to, lover boy?" Charlie
said. He was a big man of forty-five with slick black hair and a mustache. "You've got a perfect pair of big red lips on top
of your freckles."
Turning red, Sully wiped his cheek with his handkerchief, then sat down and
told his mentor and assistants the whole story. It was only when a distressed Peter Lawford called room service again -- "will
you please come and remove this body!" -- that Charlie and the others began to take him seriously. The second twin's body
was recovered from the bath tub, his crazy wife was led away by the Las Vegas authorities, and all the assistant house dicks
scoured the Sands trying to find the first corpse without success.
"What do you suppose happened
to it?" Angel asked some time later.
"Maybe it's in the oval office," he said. "With Marilyn."
Angel poked him in the ribs.
"Oh you," she said. "Who would ever believe that?"
|"The woman's voice sounded very familiar but he couldn't quite place it..."
|"Dreamily he stood in the doorway for a few moments..."
|"Can't blame the President for wanting to meet Marilyn Monroe..."