There is Nothing Funny About Murder

Submitted into Contest #158 in response to: Write a story where the law plays an important role.... view prompt


Funny Suspense Fiction

There is Nothing Funny about Murder

 The Sixth Sense

Some days have a way of enforcing you should not have decided to get out of bed.

From the time his office door opens, admitting a man he would come to know as Joseph H Pomeroy, TJ Scobie is overwhelmed by the recognition, this is definitely one of those days.

His sixth sense engages the high alert setting as soon as the man asks, “Is this the office of TJ Scobie the Private Detective? Bit small isn’t it? More like a broom cupboard.”

Two months ago TJ parted with a considerable sum of money to a Sign writer to have him quite clearly emblazon the words TJ SCOBIE, Private Detective and Attorney at Law on the glass panel of his cupboard door. ‘Parted’ in this instance means he accepted his quote. The actual parting is yet to take place. Scobie has recently turned fifty, a confirmed bachelor who is less than comfortable in a ladies company. Standing six feet one, well built and always well dressed, his mop of salt and pepper hair has an out of control appearance. A disarming boyish charm leads some to undersell him in his chosen fields of detection and the law. Several years practicing law as an Attorney were mildly successful. When the Law firm terminated his services he made a decision to try going it alone, hence the large cupboard he calls an office.

Joseph H Pomeroy follows up with, “You don’t look like a Detective,”

TJ silently congratulates his sixth sense, marveling at how fine-tuned it has become.

“Yes I am TJ Scobie. Not looking like a Detective does have advantages, no need to wear a disguise.  What brings you to the confines of my broom cupboard?”  

“You were recommended.”

It is immediately obvious this man is a liar. No-one could have recommended TJ Scobie, simply put, he has yet to have a client. Two months and not one person has found the necessity to use his services. Why is he here? TJ decides asking might be his best approach.

“Why are you here?”

“I am Joseph H Pomeroy, please call me JH, everybody does.”

TJ resists the temptation to ask who ‘everybody’ represents,

 “At the risk of being repetitious JH, why are you here?”

“It’s my wife, she’s an actress.”

“Not a crime as I understand the law. Many of the female persuasion are. Can you be a tad more specific?

“She needs protection.” 

TJ thoughts are along those very lines. Yes that makes sense, from you JH. More congratulations to his sixth.

“Protection from what or whom JH?” he asks. 

“She could be murdered.”

“Let’s try and not to get too far ahead of ourselves JH, can we go back to the beginning? When did the prospect of your wife being murdered first become evident?“

”Right from the start.”

“I believe start and beginning is a tautology JH. Let’s do the easy things first shall we, this may help get you started. What is your wife’s name?” TJ asks, hoping against hope JH is not going to say Mrs Pomeroy.

“Gracious Lovely, I call her Gracie. You must have heard of her.

TJ regrets having asked. He certainly does know of Gracie. The Gracious Lovely he knows of is a Porn Star with a capital S. However there are two words TJ believes should not be used in the same sentence, Gracie and actress.. He is forced to look at JH Pomeroy in a new light.

“Does Gracie know you are here? Does she know you think she may be murdered?”

“No and no.”

“That is it? No and no. A couple of things we have to work out JH, the question of fees before this conversation can go any further. Once we agree on the costs, some details of why you believe Gracie is in danger might be of considerable assistance. "

“Quite so. I will pay what you ask. I have with me an advance of $4000 cash."

Not having seen money of this proportion for a considerable time, (for ‘considerable time’ read ‘ever’) TJ has already decided he has his first client. That is unless JH wants him to actually murder someone, although for this sort of money TJ has not entirely dismissed this possibility.

TJ tells JH he has decided to accept his retainer. Just sign this Authority to Act on your behalf TJ says, holding out the form in one hand, while accepting the $4000 in the other. His landlord will be ecstatic, as will the Sign writer.

Now JH is officially his client, TJ explains that everything JH tells him remains in this cupboard. Thinking it may be wise to get a head start on suspects long before the crime has been committed TJ suggests they start with who JH feels is going to murder his wife.

“Do you have a list of those you consider as possible? If so can you highlight the ones on the list you would put in a ‘probable’ category?”

“Is there a difference?”

“Well yes JH. There will be some who may have a small grudge against Gracie. They could possibly have a motive. On the other list, those probable may have been fired by Gracie, or even because as Producer she is taking the best, shall we call them performers, for herself.” TJ jokingly asks, “Which list are you on JH?”  

“Definitely the Probable list, yes, high up on that list.

This presents an unusual situation. His first, and only client, hires him to protect his wife, Porn Star Gracious Lovely. Basically to prevent her being murdered by any number of people on a list, a list which includes the client, as a top of the list probable.  If only his sixth had been in operation earlier, TJ would still be in bed.

“Why do you include yourself JH? You could have already committed the crime and saved yourself $4000 dollars.”

“Oh the money doesn’t matter, it’s Gracie’s money, I stole it from her broom cupboard. She had thousands hidden there. “

TJ hesitates, should he ask? He quickly decides against it, TJ tries a different tack.  

“Will you tell Gracie she has me as a body guard?”

“She already has three. Two of them will be on the list as well as three other actresses. No, you will be a new employee working at the studio. It is during the day she is at her most vulnerable. At home is our private time.”

Coming from a man who has already admitted he is top of the suspect list does have TJ concerned he may have been a little hasty in taking the case. The one positive he can determine out of an ‘in home’ murder scenario is the list of suspects will decrease exponentially. However, unless calling Gracie an actress counts, there has been no crime.

“What is my job at the studio? Not as a performer I hope,” a stomach knot forms as he asks.

 “No, your cover is as a freelance reporter gathering facts about the Pornographic Film Industry for an expose you are writing. Exciting concept eh?”

Exciting concept?? Jesus wept. Has JH thought this through? Obviously not.  A reporter, writing a expose on an industry allegedly controlled by Mafia, Black Hand, Outlaw bikie gangs, or any other illegal operation Elliot Ness failed to put away, will have a problem getting any sort of life insurance. Add to that, there are already enough suspects who would have kept Agatha Christie on her toes for years. Of course the plus side is I am being paid a shirt load of dollars for doing exactly nothing. There is no crime. Yet. I need to know more about both JH and Gracie.

 TJ checks with his sixth sense before asking his next question. Seems Ok, no possible unintended consequences are detected. He could not be further from the outcome. 

“Begin with your background JH? Have you and Gracie been married long? How did you meet?” TJ uses these basic questions as a good way of putting people at ease. The answers don’t tell him anything and are normally exceptionally boring.

“These are the questions you should have asked when I arrived. It makes me wonder if I have made a mistake employing you. You have no order of things. Detectives must have order of things

His sixth is too late with this observation. What is the worst that can happen he asks himself?

TJ asks JH for the list to give him a head start on whom to keep an eye on. Keeping it simple he also asks, “When do I start and where is the studio? I assume that is what it is called.” 

“Already your detecting skills are on show TJ, yes it is a studio. However it is not necessarily in the realms of being very large. I mean think about it, all you need is two, or sometimes more people, a room and a bed. Clothes are not even an optional extra. A camera person is the only extra. You can put this address in your phone under Gracie. You start tomorrow at that address. Let’s say you turn up around eleven, I think that covers everything. Except to ask about your other profession, Attorney at Law, do you still practice?”

“Yes, I am fully qualified, why do you ask? Are you thinking you may need my services?” The smile is deliberate as he answers. The possibility of more dollars coming his way has not passed him by.

“You might find it could come in handy.”

His sixth fails to pick up on this remark, later he will wonder why. Instead he decides to ignore the comment and concentrate on the possibility that after her work day, Gracie is at home in the company of JH, one of the top of the list of probable suspects. TJ has developed a stutter referring to what Gracie does as work.

.JH leaves. As soon as he is outside the office TJ does what any self-respecting Private Detective would do, he tears open the envelope, $4000 in crisp $100 dollar bills. He knows they are crisp because he counts every one. TJ is not one of the most trusting of souls. Putting $500 dollars in his wallet he then consigns the balance to the bottom drawer of his filing cabinet. He could have chosen any of the drawers as all but one are empty. The exception is the top one, where under ‘P’ he has started his first client file with the document of Authority to Act. TJ frowns, there is no such signature on the document. When he thinks back he realises it was happening at the same time as $4000 was being handed to him, a situation uncommon to his attentive processes.’ Oh well, I’ll get him to sign next time.’

After a sumptuous meal later that evening and appreciating the sheer look of joy on the face of his landlord, TJ settles down to watch another episode of ‘The Closer.. He sleeps well secure in the knowledge he has home and office rents paid for a couple of weeks. Not having to be at the Studio before 11am he has time to make sure he looks the part of a reporter. Dark trousers, white shirt, red tie, not quite pulled up to his chin, trying for the casual look. His hat perhaps Jimmy Olsen style with a card sticking out of the hat band. Maybe it was Clarke Kent? Doesn’t matter really, most people are too young to remember who it was anyway. Ah, of course, pen or pencil sticking out of my coat pocket as well. I will buy a notepad at the news agency. Breakfast first, not just coffee today, it will be the BIG BREAKFAST at Momma’s Lakeside restaurant.


“Good morning Mr Scobie. You are looking dapper this morning. First time I have seen you wearing a hat. Do you know you have a card sticking out of the band like Jimmy Olsen used to have,” Polly asks.

“Thank you. Yes Polly I am aware. Today I will have The BIG BREAKFAST please, coffee first.”

“That is a big change for you Mr Scobie, have you come into money?” Polly is really thinking, ‘Don’t tell me the old skinflint is going to actually buy something other than coffee, maybe leave a tip!! Chance will be a fine thing. I wonder if JH did go to see him.

TJ gives Polly his good news, “You are looking at the new me Polly, my first client came in yesterday, I start work today, which is why I need a good breakfast.”

Thankfully Polly does not say what she thinks TJ really needs, instead she says, “One big breakfast coming up for the new neighbourhood symbol of success.” 

Just as thankfully, TJ does not recognise the sarcasm dripping from this statement.

 TJ does not leave a tip. No-one is disappointed. The order of things remains constant at Momma’s Lakeside Restaurant.

Looking at his watch after finishing The Big Breakfast, TJ estimates he can walk to the studio apartment address to arrive close to 11am, thus saving the bus fare. In the World of TJ Scobie this is the equivalent of giving himself a tip.

10.58am he arrives at 12 Volunteer Blvd. Apartment 12 is on the third floor. There is a sign on the elevator notifying it is ‘out of order’, his only option is to climb the stairs. Apartment twelve is to the right of the elevator. TJ knocks. No response. He knocks again, louder this time. Still no response. Assuming he is too early TJ starts down the stairs. As he begins to descend the stairs several Police come out of the elevator, three more are coming up the stairs with guns drawn. His first thought of ’I thought the elevator is out of order’, is interrupted by cries of ‘Hands in the air’, ‘Up against the wall’. Detecting someone is in deep trouble, TJ looks around to see who the Police are talking to, more like ‘yelling at’ really. There is only one person there besides the Police. TJ Scobie is in deep trouble.

TJ tells the Police there was no answer to his knocking. They show little interest in what he has to say. To him they are borderline rude. There is no necessity to tell him to ‘shut the fuck up’. He looks on in horror as they proceed to break down the door to apartment 12.

 “Should I call an ambulance?” one of the Police asks.

TJ tells him, “It is not necessary, I am not hurt.” After being told again to ‘shut the fuck up’ TJ Scobie does not express the opinion it is an over-reaction. He hears a voice from inside the apartment.

 “No point, she’s dead, call the Coroner. I’ll call the Homicide Squad and Forensics. Bring that reporter dude with the Jimmy Olsen hat in here.”

TJ congratulates himself. The disguise is working a treat.

Laid sprawled out on the floor is a woman, blood surrounds the head, her face turned to the carpet. It is not the first time TJ has seen dead people, however in this case the amount of blood pooling around her head makes him retch, almost giving him a second serving of the BIG BREAKFAST.

“Who is she?” the officer asks, looking directly at TJ.  

 “How would I know?” TJ replies, “I cannot see her face.”  

The officer bends down, carefully turning the woman’s head towards TJ and the officers. ‘That’s Gracious Lovely’, TJ’s voice one of three who answer in unison.

“Well I’ll be, so it is,” confirms the Sergeant, not realising what he has admitted. He follows up by voicing the thought currently going through the minds of everyone else in the room “I can’t ever remember seeing her with clothes on.”

TJ is adamant in telling the Sergeant in charge he wants to leave. He has confirmed the dead woman is Gracious Lovely.

“You are not going anywhere but Police Headquarters Sunshine,’ the voice is Detective Sergeant Don Whittle. TJ knows Don. He has known him for years. DS Whittle has been a Sergeant for all those years. His habit of calling people Sunshine is normally reserved for miscreants. TJ does not believe Sunshine should apply to him,

 DS Whittle looks extremely upset, he wipes a tear away before explaining, “This is a crime scene Sunshine. I want everyone outside, now. The Forensics team are already on their way. He bends down to check Scobie’s identification of the body, following Scobie and the officers into the hallway shortly after. Only when more composed does his attention again turn to TJ Scobie.

”Look at it from my point of view TJ. You were leaving the apartment of a woman who has recently been murdered. You know the woman because you recognised her.”

TJ tells the Detective he is mistaken. He did not enter the apartment until the officers took him inside.

If he had listened to his well-tuned sixth he would have ‘shut the fuck up’ there and then.

“You know her as Gracie, not Gracious Lovely TJ? I definitely think we will continue this at Headquarters."

Telling DS Whittle he can explain. TJ says “Let me give you a quick run through Don.” 

“Just the short version TJ.”

TJ tells him about the husband employing him to protect Gracie, Apartment 12 being the Porn studio address, his going undercover as a reporter. The more he talks, the more unbelievable he realises the story sounds. 

“There is more to this story TJ isn’t there? We will continue it at Headquarters.”

TJ already knew that is where he would be going. This really is one of those days. His sixth sense was right.

August 07, 2022 00:34

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Tommy Goround
13:17 Aug 18, 2022

One of the 5 videos by Steven Pinker on linguistics and grammar:


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Tommy Goround
11:55 Aug 18, 2022

The story is fun, probably nostalgia for a gentle version of Mike Hammer. The plotting is actually good. OK. Let's intrude on the comments below. That fella from MIT , Steven Pinkerton, let's just call him "top language expert in the world"...he has a nice little technical video on youtube about Ebonics. The laughing stock of the English Tongue? Nope. He explains the difference between "prescribed" grammar and Realized grammar. Basically, the ancient/archaic/British expressions have to check the Gn/Kn Viking roots. The maiden of the write...


Brian Bywater
23:05 Aug 18, 2022

All right, you got me. A user of the Aussie variation of the English language and I cheated. Yes we are very good at that particular pastime. There is more, particularly head and some heart, certainly no judgemental utterings re the Adult film participants. Wasting your time if looking for that aspect. This was an opportunity to dispense with around 1800 words from the opening few chapters a a 75000 completed novel without having to think up a new story in response to the prompt. We Aussies are a lazy lot. Unfortunately none of my characters...


Tommy Goround
00:07 Aug 19, 2022

Noam Chomsky>>>Steven pinker. They don't have Noam as the modern father of linguistics? I've been lied to in college again. Oiy


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Mustang Patty
12:42 Aug 13, 2022

Hi Brian, I enjoyed your story, and I think you did a good job with the prompt. I would like to make a few suggestions on your writing - - Your grammar usage needs some help. Consider using a Style Guide to help with the proper usage of commas and hyphens. - The spelling errors I found were more about hyphen usage and using two words when they should have been combined into one compound word. KEEP WRITING - that is the very best way to improve. ~MP~


Brian Bywater
00:04 Aug 15, 2022

Thank you for taking the time to read my submission. I note your comments re my grammar and spelling, however I should point out the English language and it's derivatives vary from country to country. What is deemed correct in England is not the same in the USA or Australia where I write from. Two instances in your own writing, in The Black Sheep first sentence, the and is totally unnecessary after a comma. In Turkey Day the comma is not necessary after week. While writing for submissions to a country outside your own is fun it is always be...


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