The Green Room backstage at Apollo’s Theater was overcrowded. Karen, a young vila, was trapped on a red velvet couch, wedged between Jimathy, a smiling pixie who fortunately was quite small, and Manuel del Toro, a sullen bicha who unfortunately was quite large.
"I have a friend who also is also a minotaur,” Karen said, “He can sing so beautifully."
"I am Manuel. I am not minotaur. I am Spanish," the bicha said. His nostrils flared and his eyes burned red.
Dinny Mare, the stage manager, stood in the middle of the room.
"Can I have your attention? First, let me congratulate you all. You've reached the finals of Mythical Idol. You beat out thousands to be sitting right where you are tonight. In a short time you will walk out on stage. Give it your best. Let’s make this the best finale ever.”
He winked at Karen and dashed out.
"Do I detect an unfair feminine advantage?" Jimathy climbed up on the arm of the couch. "I thought vilas had to sign a pledge not to use your sexual magic in the competition.”
"Jimathy, let her be," said Lorelei, a tall beautiful woman in a flowing gown the color of a deep ocean pool. She sat on the opposite couch next to Gina a sad young selkie. "Ignore him. He's just trying to get you upset, so you'll do poorly.”
Robert Green, a fairy, asked if anyone knew where the restrooms were located. The pixie pointed toward a door to his right. Robert thanked him and headed out the door.
"But that leads directly outside to the parking lot," Karen said.
Jimathy laughed. "He'll be fine. Someone will find him and set him right."
Marty, the stage assistant rushed in. “Jimathy, you’re up first,” he said as he went over to a curtained area in the corner. "Miss Eurale, I wanted to check your sheet music."
"Wait. Stay there," said the voice behind the curtain. "I don't have my blindfold on."
But it was too late. Marty turned the corner. Instantly he was turned to stone.
Dinny Mare ran in and saw his assistant. "By all the fish in the Irish Sea, I lose more interns that way."
"Well, I guess you'll have to take him for granite now," said Jimathy, laughing loudly, proud of his joke.
The curtain parted and a woman, her skin covered in shimmering silver scales, stepped into the room. Her eyes were wrapped in a silk blindfold, yet the writhing snakes on the top of her head remained free and wild, snapping the air.
"Una gorgona!" Manuel said.
Dinny Mare calmly placed his hand on the heaving chest of the bicha.
"With her blindfold in place everyone is perfectly safe. Grabbing his walkie-talkie he said, "I need someone to come and get Marty. Bring a dolly."
An old woman sat in the corner. Her long white hair was partially hidden by a dark gray hood she. She jumped to her feet, shrieking a melody so melancholy to be heartbreaking and yet so discordant to be painful.
"Brigid's a banshee," Jimathy shouted over the tune. "I've heard her song for tonight and that's definitely not it."
"That's odd," Dinny Mare said. "A banshee only wails for the dead.” His eyes grew wide. "May the saints below preserve us all!"
He ran from the Green Room. The rest of the contestants followed.
Karen came to a circular stair that rose high above the stage rigging to a catwalk above. Her foot brushed something hard. It was Glenn O'Brien, producer of Mythical Idol. A pool of crimson slowly spread beneath him.
"This is amazing, Ramses. The finals for Mythical Idol," said Bernie Clayberg, golem and agent for Mythical Crime Scene Investigations.
"Bernie, I didn’t know you were into popular music?" Ramses II, mummified Egyptian pharaoh and now also agent for MCSI, turned the car into the parking lot of Apollo's Theater.
"And why not? Just because everyone believes golems can’t think doesn't mean I can't appreciate great musical talent when no one is looking. I've seen every episode. The Kraken last season. Who knew that guy could sing? Angelic."
"Bernie, I need you to tone down the excitement and focus. This is a crime scene. If it is going to be a problem, I'll leave you in the car. Officer Yaztremski is on his way over. It's show time."
Immediately Bernie faked the expressionless appearance of what everyone believed was a true golem.
Ramses walked up to meet the approaching officer. A loud ripping noise came from behind him. Bernie was standing with the car door in his hand. Ramses knew it was all part of the act, but it was really hard on the car.
Officer Yaztremski watched Bernie set the car door on the ground. "Special Agent Ramses, Chief Inspector Krupke is waiting for you backstage."
"Excuse me." A well-dressed fairy ran over to them from the other side of an ornate sculpture garden. "Would you happen to know where the restroom is?"
"Sorry, no," Ramses said. Officer Yaztremski shook his head. Bernie stood silent and still.
"I really must find it soon," the fairy said and ran off back through the sculpture garden. Two workmen arrived and placed a stone statue of what looked to be a startled young man holding a clipboard.
They found Krupke backstage squatting by the victim's body. He looked up as he heard Ramses approach.
"Carl, do you know what you get if you cross a yellow mummy with a green mummy?"
"I don't, Chief," said Officer Yaztremski trying not to chuckle.
"A golden moldy," Krupke said.
"It's nice to see you too, Krupke. What have we here?" Ramses said.
"Glenn O'Brien, producer of the show. Fell from the stair landing up there. Broken neck."
"I take it you don't believe it was an accident or you wouldn't have called us in," Ramses said.
"No, the handrail was sawed through. I was just about to…" He was interrupted by a loud and raucous cheer.
"In Rah's name, what was that?" Ramses said.
"The studio audience. The show's about to start."
"You didn’t make them postpone it?"
"Couldn’t. Right now Mythical Idol is the biggest thing on television. The network stands to lose millions if the show is postponed. I was told in no uncertain terms by the Chief of Police to not disturb the show and keep our investigation low profile."
Bernie walked over and peaked out from behind the stage curtain. A packed house cheered wildly as Rex Reedle, host of the show, stepped out to center stage.
"Ladies, gentlemen, fellow creatures of all shapes and sizes, welcome to the Mythical Idol Finale."
Ramses came up to Bernie. "Bernie, we have a job to do," he said.
Rex Reedle quieted the audience. "But first may I present your judges."
"Excuse me," said a voice behind them.
Bernie turned to look up into the eyes of the blonde giantess and Norse supermodel, Gerthr. Silently, fighting everything in his sculpted clay body not to fall at her feet in adoration, Bernie took a step to the side.
Following her was music producer, Elvis Carrington, a squat human chewing on a cigar bigger than his face. The Alaskan mermaid, Ikalu Nappa, in a glittering tank was pushed on stage by the head judge, the man of myth and legend, the great Bob Sasquatch.
"Is everyone ready?" Reedle asked the audience. He was answered by a tremendous scream. "Let's welcome our first contestant. It's Jimathy singing the classic Pixie tune 'Here Comes Your Man'."
The pixie pushed his way between Ramses and Bernie. "Wish me luck." he said. "Ha, I don't need it. I'm going to kill this."
Ramses placed his hand on Bernie's arm and said, "We have work to do. We need to stop someone from killing anything else."
As they approached Krupke said, "Ramses, I didn't take you for a fan. I thought you only liked wrap music."
Officer Yaztremski laughed a little too loud and way too long.
"Enough, Krupke. What do we know about Glenn O'Brien?" Ramses knelt beside the body.
"Married, no kids. Been with the show since its inception. Also dabbled in real estate. No enemies to speak of, though this is show business, so I find that hard to believe."
“Bernie, would you take a closer look at the stairs,” Ramses said.
At the base of the first step there was a trace of wet sand and a strand of narrow green seaweed. There was more on the next step and on the one a few more up. It was after Bernie stepped on the landing that the metal stair began to complain about his weight, loudly and with much distress.
"We are in a commercial break." Dinny Mare spotted Bernie tightly gripping the center column of the groaning stair. "Whose golem is that? Those stairs can’t take that weight. Get him down from there immediately."
"It’s my fault," Ramses said. "I gave my partner somewhat non-explicit instructions to look for clues."
"Don't let it happen again. We only have twenty minutes in each commercial break and there's so much to be done."
Quietly Ramses turned to Bernie. "What did you find?"
Bernie held out his hand and showed him the seaweed. He pointed to the sand on the steps going up to the landing.
"Good work, Bernie. Now Krupke has assembled everyone in the Green Room."
They found Krupke totally entranced by a beautiful woman in a long blue dress. Jimathy strutted in and flopped on the couch. "Nailed it. You might as well all go home now," he said to anyone listening. They weren't.
Ramses cleared his throat. "Chief Inspector Krupke and I would like to ask you all a few questions. If you could all take your original places when first the Banshee..."
"My name is Brigid," said old woman in the corner.
"When Brigid first proclaimed the death of Glenn O'Brien."
There was some groaning and some shuffling but when all spots were accounted for there was one empty space on the couch on the right side of the room.
"Who was sitting here?" Krupke asked.
"That was Gina. She's on stage now," said the woman in blue never taking her eyes from Krupke. "I'm Lorelei."
"Delighted,Lorelei," he said.
Bernie pointed to a small pile of sand and a few strands of leafy seaweed on the carpet.
"Gina's a selkie," Lorelei said. Krupke looked at her blankly. "A seal who has taken human form. But she said her husband became cruel, forcing her to perform. He even hid her seal skin so she could never leave him and return to the sea. She told me that's why her songs are always so sad."
"Chief, you need to see this." Officer Yaztremski handed Krupke a sheet of paper.
Krupke read it over and passed it to Ramses.
"Background checks on all the contestants and judges. That's the page on Gina. Her married name is Gina O'Brien, as in Mrs. Glenn O'Brien. They must have kept it secret as it was against the rules for family members to enter the competition. Add in troubles at home. Sounds like the perfect motive for an accident to me."
Manuel jumped to his feet. "She is cheat. She is unqualified. I will stop her now."
"No, sit, we’ll handle this. We can't have angry minotaurs causing a panic," Krupke said.
"I am Manuel. I am not minotaur. I am Spanish," said the bicha, his nostrils steaming.
Krupke ignored him. "Carl, station some men on both sides of the stage. When Mrs. O'Brien is done with her performance, she'll have nowhere to go but into custody.”
Dinny Mare popped into the Green Room. "Lorelei, you're on next."
"I'll be right there," she said. She stood and brushed the folds from her dress. "How do I look, Chief Inspector?"
"Absolutely amazing," Krupke said, smiling as he helped her to the door. "You certainly have my vote."
"That's sweet, but you haven't even heard me sing yet.” She squeezed his arm and left the room.
Bernie knelt down looking at the floor by the couch.
"Are we absolutely sure this was everyone's exact position before Brigid," Ramses nodded to the banshee, "began her wailing?"
"I think so. Gina was sitting next to Lorelei the entire time," Karen said.
"Thank you," Ramses said. "Krupke, look to where Bernie is pointing. You'll see the small pile of sand at Gina's spot, slight residue from an ocean born entity. But next to it is another pile of sand and fresh seaweed, all concealed under Lorelei's dress."
On stage Lorelei began to sing.
At that instant everything stopped. The audience sat motionless and silent, intent on the song and only the song. It flowed out from the stage, encircling them all. The song was everything.
In the Green Room the contestants stood as one and turned toward the monitors. Ramses as well. He no longer cared about sand or seaweed or killers or anything but the exquisite song.
Bernie struggled against the melody. Anguish filled his eyes. He could feel what was happening and tried to fight it.
Karen saw what was happening and grabbed two cucumber sandwiches, stuffing one into each ear. They muffled the song just enough to filter the magic away.
"Just what in Peckinpah's Pantry is going on?" Krupke said. "Carl, get over here and figure this out."
Carl didn't move. He stood mesmerized by the music unable and unwilling to answer Krupke.
Lorelei’s melody shifted. It became more urgent and enticing. She waved her arms beckoning her audience to her.
They came slowly at first, becoming more urgent with each step. Those in the back climbed over seats to get closer to the stage. They needed to listen, to worship, to adore her.
As some climbed the stairs to the stage Bob Sasquatch pushed them back. He picked up his chair and began swinging. Lorelei’s song was meant for him alone. He felt unstoppable until Gerthr hit him from behind.
Elvis Carrington, the sole human judge approached Lorelei. In one hand she now held a knife. As he stepped closer, she drove the blade deep into his chest.
In the Green Room everyone moved toward the door. They too felt the pull to Lorelei. Krupke stood in the doorway trying to prevent anyone from leaving. Black steam jutted from Manuel’s nostrils. Krupke wisely moved out of the way and let the bicha pass.
Bernie still resisted. The melody was so beautiful, so very beautiful. It tore at his magical soul. If he didn't do something soon he felt that surely he might cry.
Karen had to do something. She saw the files at Officer Yaztremski's feet. She gathered them up, handing them to Krupke.
Krupke removed Lorelei's page and read it. In the spot listing mythical identity, she hadn't thought enough to lie. Lorelei had written “Siren”.
He ran to the stage and saw the deadly chaos that Apollo's Theater had become. When the knowledge struck him, it hit hard and he felt he had to do the same. He lowered his head and tackled the siren. Lorelei landed on her back, Krupke's shoulder still buried in her stomach. She hit with a crunch and all the air left her lungs.
The song stopped.
The audience, the judges, the contestants stared at one another. Not knowing what had happened everyone did what they thought best. They ignored it. Slowly they returned to their seats.
Krupke pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and stuffed it in the gasping siren’s mouth.
"Lorelei Fisher, I arrest you for the murder of Glenn O'Brien and causing general mayhem, or something like that. Carl, cuff her."
In the confusion Lorelei saw an opening and ran. She pulled at the handkerchief, trying to free herself to sing again. She ran through the Green Room. When she reached the door to the parking lot it swung open. The fairy stood there blocking her way.
"I found the restroom," he said. "It wasn't anywhere near where the pixie told me."
"Everyone, cover your eyes," Karen yelled. Shielding her own, she reached up and pulled down the curtain surrounding Miss Eurale. A startled, half-dressed gorgon turned and looked the siren deep into her eyes. Instantly Lorelei was transformed into stone.
“Not again,” said Miss Eurale.
Quickly Ramses, Krupke, and rest came into the Green Room. Bernie restored the curtain around Miss Eurale.
"I would have preferred she face a judge and jury, but she'll not be taking the law for granite anymore," Krupke said.
"Hey, that's my joke," Jimathy said.
Krupke, Ramses, and Bernie watched as a crew added Lorelei to the sculpture garden.
"It was too bad she turned to stone before we got to ask her why she did it," Krupke said.
"I might be able to help with that," Ramses said. "There was a news report a few years ago. A record producer bought up a lot of ocean front property to build a new recording studio, essentially stole it from under the residents. That record producer was Elvis Carrington. I'll bet we'll find that Lorelei's land was part of that scheme. It’s a siren’s nature to sing in the moonlight to the sea. He took her home in the rocks along the shipping lanes from her."
"But why kill Glenn O'Brien?" Krupke asked.
"You said he made his money in real estate. If you check, you'll find he was the one that set up the deal taking Lorelei's land.
"One thing I'd like to know, Krupke," Ramses said. "Why weren't you affected by Lorelei's song like the rest of us?"
"Tone deaf. Can't tell a beautiful melody from one your golem would sing, if he could. That gives me an idea. Maybe next year you and your partner could enter. Start your own group. I've got just the name for you, too. Pharaoh-smith."