Yesterday, we traded Cabot Cove for New Orleans with Jessica Fletcher. Today we're looking at one of the city's resident detectives in Longstreet.
It’s a show that’s often overlooked when people talk about classic detectives, despite being genuinely ground-breaking. James Franciscus plays Mike Lonsgstreet, a blind insurance investigator who’s part Johnny Dollar and part Matt Murdock. Along with his adorable Seeing Eye dog, a white German Shepherd called Pax, Mike ends up solving a lot of murders. That’s right! Prime 1970’s era James Franciscus and a dog! Best show ever!
To put another cherry on this sundae, Bruce Lee appeared in four episodes… but not the one we’re watching today. He played a Jeet Kune Do expert called Li Tsung, who was helping Mike adapt to his blindness through self-defence classes and spiritual guidance.
It aired from 1971-1972 and wasn’t renewed for a second season. And yet, The Love Boat ran for nine years. In many ways, we can never truly understand the people of the past.
Today’s episode is all about the second most common New Orleans cliché, Jazz. (In case you’re wondering, it goes: Mardi Gras, jazz, stolen gumbo recipe.) Unfortunately, I have no images to help with this post for a variety of reasons that are way classier than “the bootleg I was streaming got raided like a speakeasy before I took screenshots.” I just have not figured out a believable lie for those reasons to be.
We open on a street at night. It’s dark, and there are few people around as Mike and Pax leave the apartment. Mike’s not bothered by the dark, of course, but Pax has to remind him where the sidewalk turns. (It’s still early days in Mike’s recovery, all things considered, since he was blinded in the pilot episode and we’re just on episode five.) The greatest detecting duo of all time – by virtue of one of them being a service dog and the other a handsome man and not based on any skill comparisons at all – make their way to the Crescent City Jazz Society building.
Mike lets himself in. There are no lights on, and the place looks empty.
“Mr. Doucette?” He calls.
Pax carefully leads him around the display cases and through to an office. Mike calls for Mr. Doucette again, but still gets no response. Uncertain, he begins feeling the top of the desk, getting his bearings. Whatever he was expecting to happen, this isn’t it. His fingers brush a lit lamp, and he pulls them back. It’s hot. The lightbulb’s been on for a while. He finds a phone, still on the hook, and discovers that a jacket is hung over the back of the desk chair.
People don’t leave lights on and jackets in rooms they’re not coming back to.
As he begins to resume his search for this mysterious Mr. Doucette, Mike hears a wet thwack and a human gasp. Then, blaring and sudden, jazz.
He hurries back into the rooms he’d just come from. The music is playing on an antique phonograph, covering any background noises, trapping Mike in the blast of trumpet notes like it’s a cage. The room is still dark. He feels along the display cases to guide himself, and soon discovers that the glass in one of them has been shattered. The contents are gone, leaving only a placard and a velvet pillow inside.
Mike steps backwards and collides with something on the floor.
Or rather, someone.
Other detectives figuratively trip over corpses, but Mike Longstreet does it literally, because he doesn’t cut corners. He does everything twice as well as a sighted detective would, just to shut up the haters.
The floor body is, no great surprise, Mr. Doucette. And, also no great surprise, he’s totally dead. Mike checks for his pulse, then listens to his chest, then checks for his pulse again; really thorough First Aid ABC’s, gotta say. There’s no flopping the corpse’s head to one side and just being like: “It’s Mr. Doucette – and he’s been murdered!” We’re actually checking there’s nothing that can revive this man.
Just to shut up the haters.
Title sequence time! We get some 70’s jazzy flute intro music that would make Ron Burgundy weep bitter tears of envy, along with a quick glimpse of all the things Longstreet used to do when he could see. Like play tennis, look at his watch, drive a car, run down some steps and smile, oh they were halcyon days. Then! Oh no! An explosion blinds him! A drawing of his eye fills up the center square of the screen as a montage of his rehabilitation and new life kaleidoscope around it. He’s blind, but he can still solve crimes. Dramatic trumpet note!
And back to the story.
The authorities have turned up at the Jazz Society, and photographs are being taken of the crime scene while the body is removed. Mike and Pax are off to one side, talking to an absolute idiot of a detective.
“I figure he backed his head up against the wall in the dark. Died instantly,” says Lt. Toomey, who doesn’t want to do justice because of all the paperwork, and who really cares, right? What’s the big difference between a murder and an accident anyway?
Clouseau over here asks Mike what brought him to the crime scene. Turns out that Doucette had called him and invited him to swing by to talk over “an insurance matter,” and Mike wasn’t weirded out by the unlocked door because he’d assumed it had been left open for him.
Ralph Clayton, the assistant director of the Jazz Society, comes over and hands Lt. “It-Was-All-a-Misunderstanding” Toomey a list of items stolen from the displays. Seriously, though. A dead body is found in a darkened, burgled room. What kind of terrible policeman goes: “What a tragic accident for him to slip and brain himself on the light switch the same night as this burglary. Tough break. Let’s all go get some midnight beignets!”
For the benefit of the actual detective, Lt. Toomey reads off the missing items. He mumbles, but I think the first item is a record collection? The next two are definitely a clarinet and a coronet.
“Not just any clarinet and coronet,” Clayton informs us. “The clarinet was Jojo Miller’s, the coronet was the one used by Jimbo Rollins.”
Dignified names for dignified men.
“Are you sure that’s all that was missing?” Toomey asks.
“Isn’t that enough?!” Clayton answers, looking confused and a little horrified.
Mike explains that the record collection was insured for two hundred dollars. The two horns were insured for over one hundred thousand dollars. Toomey grumbles about it probably being a murder then, and goes off to contaminate some evidence or let a key witness leave town. You know, Toomey business.
Left alone with Clayton, Mike runs through a brief checklist of other valuable items in the collection. All of them are accounted for, which is weird. And suspicious. Clayton, near panic, tells Mike that the board of directors will be very anxious to recover the missing instruments, and Mike goes: “Yes. I know.”
Cold as ice, Longstreet, cuz everybody’s a suspect.
Clayton takes his leave, forcing us into another conversation with Toomey just to explain that one of the insurance companies Mike works for wrote the policies on all the museum pieces.
While they talk, Mike examines the shattered display case. He picks up a piece of broken glass and sniffs it. (Sometimes he sniffs stuff, it’s not weird, it’s like a snake using its tongue to see. Okay, that made it sound weird, that was my fault. It’s not weird. The glass is a clue. He’s smelling for clues. That’s not crazy-sounding, it’s like Daredevil! The glass smells like cosmoline! It’s a clue!)
The glass smells like cosmoline, but, Mike notes, not quite like cosmoline.
And another thing, why did the thief steal a collection of Crescent City Kings records? Why them instead of a different record collection and some manuscripts that were in the same cabinet and worth a lot more money on the private market?
Toomey basically shrugs and says that jazz sucks, so why bother stealing anything?
Man, Toomey is just terrible at his job.
With the bulk of the exposition now behind us, and the pipe of the mystery laid, it’s time to move on.
Sometime the next day, Nikki Bell turns up at Mike’s. Nikki is a character in the middle of an identity crisis; her role in Mike’s life is never quite hashed out. Is she a day nurse? An expert on transitioning to blindness? She often introduces herself as Mike’s “teacher” but also never teaches him things, and he learned braille at that institute he went to in the pilot episode – it took him forever but he triumphed – so I don’t know. I like to think of her as Mike’s frequently kidnapped life coach.
Speaking of braille, Mike is practicing with his snazzy new typewriter when Nikki comes in. What he’s typing up, she nosily discovers by just picking up one of the pages even though that’s super rude, are his impressions of the case so far. We learn that Clayton has inherited the position of director; and that he’s more knowledgeable about jazz history than Doucette was, despite Doucette having the higher position. Another person of interest is Truman Deckbar, the man who donated the trumpet to the Jazz Society.
Mike doesn’t think Deckbar is a suspect, but he’d like to talk to him. It turns out that Deckbar has one of the largest private collections of jazz memorabilia in the world. It’s kind of weird that so devoted a collector would give away an item as valuable as Jimbo’s horn.
Time to go annoy people. In person.
When we first meet Mr. Deckbar, he’s holding his poodle and cowering at the fearsomeness of Pax. Pax, who is sitting like a good boy, and kind of looking around at the new room. Checking for things that would be dangerous, taking in the locations of easily tripped on ottomans. Doing a casual sweep, like any detective might.
“You’re sure he’s quite safe?” Deckbar asks. “He’s very large.”
Mike assures him that Pax is basically the safest animal in the world, because a violently tempered Seeing Eye dog would be stupid.
Deckbar relaxes and puts the poodle down. The dogs go play, and probably have a mini-adventure where they figure out which of the household animals stole that morning’s paper. Main suspect: the parakeet. Twist ending: it was the poodle. It’s Chinatown, Pax.
The décor at Deckbar’s house is tacky and full of red velvet accents and silk couches. Mike, being blind, compliments him on his taste.
“I like this room,” he says, “antique furniture and heavy drapes.”
“You can feel the furniture, but how do you know about the drapes?”
Mike says he guessed from the way the voices don’t echo in the room despite the high ceilings. I think it’s really because they stink – everyone who’s been in a room with heavy velvet drapes knows that they smell like the inside of a coffin. But that would be a rude thing to say.
“You’re a well-adjusted, clever man, but I still have no idea what you want with me, Mr. Longstreet.” Deckbar says, strangely defensively, “I have no knowledge of the theft. Or of the murder.”
You want the handsome blind man to leave right away because he’s wasting his time? That sounds like an innocent person: “Take your friendly dog and your interesting life story and get out! I’m not even going to ask if you want a glass of water, it’s so preposterous that you’re even here!”
Mike powers through and asks where he originally got the trumpet. A small curiosity shop called The Historical Exchange, nowhere fancy, and simply by accident did the horn turn out to have belonged to Jimbo Rollins. Deckbar claims he didn’t know when he made the purchase what the history of the piece might be. It was only when he got it home and discovered the JR etched inside the bell that he put it all together. The make and model were rare, which is what interested Deckbar initially. He never dreamed it was Jimbo’s; collectors had been fruitlessly searching for it for years.
Mike’s all: “Cool story, bro. Why did you give it away, if it was such a remarkable discovery?”
Deckbar asks if Mike will believe it was a political ploy. He wanted to be nominated to the Jazz Society’s board of directors, and thought that a free trumpet might seal the deal. But he was passed over. Charles Doucette blackballed him.
“It was one of those inane grudges that some people nurture for years,” Deckbar drawls, clearly bitter but trying to look like he’s not.
Well, that about wraps things up here.
Mike gets ready to leave, and adds one more thing, Columbo-style.
“If anybody tries to sell the horn back to you, let me know, will you?”
An innocent enough thing for an insurance investigator to say, don’t you think? But it certainly gets a reaction.
Deckbar whips around so fast, you’d think Mike tried to pick his pocket.
“Of course,” he says, powder soft, like a perfect Southern gentleman. “I assure you, I would return both instruments to the Jazz Society, if I could recover them.”
He doesn’t even try to hide the rage in his face, he thinks it doesn’t matter. But that oozing, ever-so-polite tone in his voice gives him away just as much.
This guy is guilty of something. And it’s not just bad taste in furniture.
That evening, Mike and Nikki go to a small jazz club. (Pax is at home, watching Thunderbolt.) The band is playing When the Saints Go Marching In, because that’s the only song New Orleans jazz bands play on television shows. I guess because it’s public domain music, but still. It’s as bad as The Emperor’s Waltz on westerns.
The pianist on stage is a Ray Charles proxy named Danny. Are we setting up for an elaborate game of cat and mouse between a blind criminal mastermind and our blind detective? No. It’s still a detective show from the 70’s. A blind, black nemesis embroiled in the jazz subculture was not a thing that could have happened, even on Longstreet.
In the audience, a somewhat melancholy young woman watches the band play. When she notices Nikki and Mike hovering by the door, she goes over to greet them. There’s no dialogue, just the music, but it looks like she knows Nikki two of them pretty well.
Once she’s seated Mike and Nikki, she heads back to the side of the stage, and lights a cigarette as Danny plays his heart out. She looks troubled.
The band finishes up, and Danny announces that they’re going to take a short break. “But don’t go anywhere, we need the bread!”
Bread, for those as young and I and younger, was how our forefathers once spoke of money. It’s a shortened form of the cockney rhyming slang term “bread and honey.”
By the way, Danny is being played by Brock Peters, who you might know best as Captain Sisko’s dad.
Nikki heads up to the stage and hands Danny a request from Mike. At first, Danny’s about to pass it off to bass player Gus, but then he realizes he can read it just fine.
“Is that you, Nikki?” He asks with a smile. “This must be from Mike, he’s the only cat I know that can write X-rated braille.”
What does that note say?!
Gus watches ominously, shadow-cloaked, as Danny pulls up a chair at Mike’s table. Gus is important. Remember him.
“So how about my request?” Mike asks.
“Man, if I did that tune in here, I’d turn this joint into a garage in one chorus.”
(If you’re reading this, and you have any idea what the hell that means, please leave a translation in the comments. I’m normally pretty good with that kind of thing, but the garage part is throwing me. Does he mean he’ll empty the establishment? Is he implying that the song is too risqué for this nightclub, and so all the patrons would be scandalized and leave? That’s my best guess.)
Mike gets down to brass tacks: has Danny heard any scuttlebutt about the stolen horns? The street has a way of clamming up when there’s been a murder.
Ugh. Can you guys speak modern English, please? I know you’re cool, you don’t have to prove it with your code-language. Besides which, Mike, "scuttlebutt" makes you sound military, not like a hip jazzman.
Danny is aghast that there’s been a murder. He knew about the thefts, somehow, but not the murder.
I don’t want to tell Mike how to do his job, but there’s no way that gossip channels that bring news of stolen objects leave out any gruesome murders. That’s just not how these things work. So who would tell Danny about the thefts, but leave out the murder? And why would they leave out the murder?
Mike explains about Doucette, and Danny is legit upset.
He really had no idea that Doucette was murdered. Mike makes a perturbed little face, and he’s either feeling guilty that he broke the news so coldly, or he’s noticed that this is weird. Maybe both.
Meanwhile, in the back office of the club, our melancholy girl from before – Molly – is working quietly at her desk, when Gus struts in like a total ass. He’s wearing a mustard yellow shirt with big cuffs and a huge collar, and only two of his buttons are buttoned. That’s minimal button usage to avoid an indecency ticket.
“Hey,” he says, not quite sleazily enough because he’s being played by Robert DoQui, “when are you going to let go of that torch?”
I can translate this one! He’s referring to the torch she’s carrying for Danny. No doubt, unrequited romantic interest is the source of her melancholy!
“And when are you going to give up?” She snaps, as Gus leans on the back of her chair and tries to touch her shoulders.
He wants to take her to Miami for a couple of weeks, after Mardi Gras when things are in a bit of a lull, but they’ve got sweet tourism dollars lining their pockets. See how Mardi Gras was mentioned in this episode, but it wasn’t in a ridiculously cartoonish way? People were talking about it in terms of scheduling bookings and their fiscal year, not all: “Let’s go to a masked ball at a haunted house! I bet all those stories about old Madame Lafontaine are baloney!” Take note, other shows.
Anyway, Molly asks if Gus is really interested in her, or if he just wants to take something that Danny has. Gus cruelly tells her that the only thing in Danny’s life is music, and that she overestimates her importance.
She asks him about who he drives Danny to go visit. She wants to know if it’s a woman.
All the backstage drama is cut short when Danny himself bursts in, upset. He’s pretty frazzled from Mike dropping that murder bomb over cocktails just now. Molly offers to massage his neck, but he’s just like: “Not now, Molly! Go away! I have to confirm some shady stuff with Gus!”
Molly, not realizing that a criminal conspiracy has likely gone awry, is hurt. She heads back out into the club, and winds up being coaxed into sitting with Nikki and Mike.
“What’s your poison?” Mike asks cheerfully.
“It’s a gin night, Mike,” she answers. “Cold and lonely.”
Back in the office, there’s trouble.
“Alright, yes, I hit him! But it was an accident, I didn’t even know he was going to be there! I’m no killer, Danny, you know that!” Gus yellsway too loudly, considering he’s confessing to murder, and anyone on their way to the bathroom can probably hear him because this is a nightclub backroom.
“Whose shoulder do you lean on?” Gus begs, as Danny coldly turns from him, “Whose arm do you take?”
“You never meant for anyone to die.” Danny says, like he’s predicting all of what will be said.
“Look, I did it for you! Like always!”
That thing pretty much solved itself.
Danny agrees to keep quiet, but what is he going to do about Mike Longstreet? Everyone knows the local cops are easily bribable and largely inept, but Mike? Mike is good at his job, and sometimes does justice things as a hobby.
The man catches criminals for fun, Gus. For fun.
Dramatic commercial break!
When we get back, it’s a new day. Pax and Mike are on their way to the Crescent City Jazz Society. Pax is in a tail wagglingly good mood, mostly because he loves hitting the mean streets of New Orleans while the chase is on. The air smells like gunpowder to him, and there’s nothing that makes him feel more alive than busting perps. Also, it’s time for walkies!
When they get the Jazz Society building, they’re greeted by Mr. Clayton. Mike recognizes him from his voice.
“Hey, you’ve got a pretty good ear! Maybe you should’ve been a musician!”
“Nah. I’ve been a fan of jazz for years, but I can’t even play the kazoo.”
Have you really tried playing the kazoo, Mike? I think if you put in some effort, you’d surprise yourself.
“Well, you’re better off, because it’s a rotten life,” Clayton says conversationally. “But I could never really play like the greats.”
New question to ask your friends at a boring dinner party: would you rather be a sighted mediocre musician, or a blind master detective?
Mike congratulates Clayton on his promotion, and Clayton thanks him and explains that he’s just Acting Director. The board still has to vote on his official appointment. He’s almost giddy with delight at climbing the career ladder. If I didn’t know for a fact that Gus had killed Ducette from his confession five seconds ago, I would swear that this guy and Deckbar had planned this whole thing together. Everybody is suspicious as balls right now.
The reason Mike came over here, though, is to ask if there had been any special events to do with the Jazz Society on the night of the murder. Turns out, Ducette had been wearing a tuxedo when he was killed. I didn’t notice that because his jacket was off, and he was a crumpled, lifeless mound on a darkened floor the last time I saw him.
But… Mike didn’t see him at all, so how did he come by this information?
Ducette was at a concert that night, Clayton tells us, but I’m still very much distracted. (Did Mike ask one of the responding officers? “If you don’t mind, tell me everything about the victim’s appearance. Hair colour, style of clothing and shoes, any strange marks on hands and fingers such as ink stains or mysterious powders, that sort of thing.”) Apparently, the two of them left together, and the last time Clayton saw Doucette, Doucette was working in his office alone.
(Maybe one of the cops at the scene made a joke like: “At least when a guy gets murdered in a tuxedo, you don’t gotta worry about dressing him for the funeral!” And Mike was all: “A man is dead, lieutenant. Try to show some respect.”)
There’s something that doesn’t sit well with Mike, something he can’t quite connect, and it’s bothering him the way a blogger might be bothered by a blind man knowing that a corpse was wearing a tuxedo. Why, he asks Clayton, would somebody steal just the clarinet and coronet?
Clayton takes Mike over to the phonograph that had been playing the night of the murder. He selects a record that is conveniently right at the top of the pile, and – oh my god! Of course! When Mike was doing first aid, he felt the bowtie and the ruffles on the shirt front! I can’t believe I didn’t realize that sooner!
Oh. Yeah. Sorry.
The record is the last one Jimbo Rollins ever cut. By that time, he was physically losing his lips. It’s as tragic as it is kind of gross, and happens all the time in real life. Trumpeters who play without warming up, or who use too much pressure, can seriously injure their lips and might never play again. The medical term is embouchure collapse. One of the worst ones I’ve ever heard of was a player who split his lip during a high note contest, didn’t take any time off, and kept performing with the injury until it became seriously infected and basically ended his career. There’s also this thing where you can herniate your lip muscle; it’s called Satchmo’s Syndrome, which is a kind of funny name for a not funny at all injury.
Anyway, somehow the playing of this record leads Mike to conclude that the theft was based more on sentiment than on monetary gain. I’m not sure how he got from A to B, but after doubting him on the tuxedo thing, I’m giving him a free pass. Mike’s in charge now, I’m just going to let him do whatever.
I really am.
Look, at least pretend like you think I can do it.
Hey! Danny’s back! Look at that! He’s across town, in the backroom of Molly’s nightclub, listening to that same final Jimbo Rollins record. He looks hypnotized, full of regret and longing. Gus comes in and asks if he’s “ready to split” but Danny asks for another minute. He takes his sunglasses off and listens on with tears in his eyes.
Let’s go talk to an old jazzman by the name of Joe-the-Butcher Powell. Butcher played with Rollins for a long time, and knows a couple of important things: Rollins, shortly before his death, took an ill-advised riverboat gig, and that’s how he died. He fell off – or jumped off – the boat, and the authorities never found his body, or his coronet. Rollins had been despondent that year because of his lip injury. Also of note, Rollins had been unhappily married to a woman who wouldn’t give him a divorce. He took up with a Cajun girl by the name of Mattia, and had a baby. Butcher, who is insanely tall, invites Mike and Nikki to stay and listen to his band of old timers play.'
“The combined age of our group is four-hundred and eight years, and we still play good!”
No time for fun, Butcher. There’s a mystery afoot.
(Man, though, wouldn’t a show about a geriatric jazz band who solved mysteries be great? Somebody go pitch CBS!)
Back at home, Mike is going through his record collection, which has been transferred to cassettes and marked with braille. He finds an unmarked tape that turns out to be some weird, random recording that was made at a birthday party of his from before the explosion. He gets sad.
Nikki turns up to tell him that one of his hunches was right. The stolen Crescent City Kings record collection just turned up at The Historical Exchange. The shop frequented by Truman Deckbar. The proprietor claimed not to know they were stolen, but Mike tells us that the guy’s been a fence for years. While he talks, he accidentally eats a dog biscuit that his housekeeper put in the wrong spot. Mrs. Kingston and Nikki laugh at him.
He gives the rest of the biscuit to Pax, who deserves a treat for actually assisting Mike. Unlike the human employees who get their kicks out of his wacky mix-ups.
Back to work. Fingerprints on the record collection? Most of them were Doucette’s. Some were Claytons. According to Nikki, visitors come and go and touch things at the Jazz Society, but no. Everything was locked in glass cases. If the other fingerprints were underneath Doucette’s and Clayton’s, then they’re just from prior handling. The police, apparently, also came up with an interesting smudge print.
“A smear print?” Mike clarifies.
“Not a smear, they said definitely a smudge,” Nikki reports, “Lines not defined.”
What about that not-cosmoline on the lock and glass? The lab’s still running tests.
Mike wants a list of everyone who went to the concert Doucette attended that night.
Nikki heads off with a parting crack about Mike eating Pax out of house and home. Classy.
When she’s gone, Mike goes back to being sad about his life.
I really don’t think this sequence worked the way it was intended to, in terms of balancing Mike’s struggle with a light-hearted moment, because the dog cookie bit failed hard. It would’ve been funny if Mike was a snobbish character who was easily distracted, but otherwise regarded as sharply observant of visual clues. As it stood, it just made me uneasy about Mrs. Kingston and Mike’s kitchen safety.
Speaking of people who are terrible friends to blind men, Gus was playing bass at the concert, we learn as Mike and Pax (and also Nikki who we’re mad at) head to Molly’s club. Mike heads over to Danny, who’s sitting at a table eating grits for dinner. Mike’s like: “Grits for dinner?! Crazy!”
“You can take the Cajun out of the bayou, but you can’t take the bayou out of the Cajun,” Danny chuckles.
Just like that: Boom! Cultural minefield! The 70’s saw something called the Cajun Renaissance, which led to tons of references to Cajun things on TV without any understanding of what was being discussed. Same as Hawaii gets now and then, and Australia had right after Crocodile Dundee. I vote to let it go for now, and if you feel compelled to discuss it in the comments section, be cool about it.
Mike sits down with Danny, as Nikki excuses herself to go hang out with Molly. Danny says he hasn’t heard anything about the stolen horns. (Liar!)
Over at the bar, Nikki is ordering a couple of gin fizzes and noticing that Molly looks sad. I have never seen Molly not look sad. Which kind of sucks, because I like Molly. Nikki asks if it’s to do with Danny.
“Oh, Nikki, I try,” Molly shakes her head, “I try so hard.”
“Maybe too hard.”
Yeah, you know, sometimes you need to let the blind man you’re secretly in love with eat dog cookies just so that he doesn’t think he’s so special. WTF, Nikki? Don’t give advice, you don’t even have a job description.
Molly confides her suspicions that Danny’s been seeing another woman, and Nikki’s all: “That’s stupid, Danny can’t even see you.”
“Why does he keep pushing me away?” Molly asks.
Nikki tells us that when she was a little girl, she loved to explore empty houses and vacant buildings. She got a real kick from trespassing; and like all six year olds with a hobby, hers soon became an unhealthy obsession. Until she lost her puppy in an abandoned factory. That was the first time she had ever felt fear… Where the hell is this going, Nikki?
Look, Molly, Danny is pushing you away because he thinks he’s damaged goods and you are awesome. Both of which are, to varying degrees, true. But what’s key here is that it isn’t his blindness that makes him think he’s damaged, it’s whatever secret he goes to visit. The thing you think is another woman.
By the way, Nikki never tells us if her puppy was okay. But she does mention that what she fears the most is things being lost in the dark, which gives us some insight into why she works with the blind but is also kind of horrible at it.
“I love him,” Molly says with conviction, “and I’m not afraid of the dark.”
Over at the gentlemen’s table, Danny is explaining that Gus was filling in for a sick bass player. It wasn’t some kind of trade-off organized to get Gus access to the Jazz Society so that he could steal things, ha ha, Mike why would you even dream that up? That’s some imagination!
Ice Cold Mike makes an appearance as Danny gets defensive and insists that Gus is no thief, and certainly no murderer:
“Maybe there’s some reason we don’t know about.”
Only penguins can survive the temperature he delivers that line at.
It’s obvious he knows that Danny is hiding things from him. Danny, it would seem, has a knack for keeping secrets, but is also very obvious about keeping the secrets.
Gus watches from the shadows as Mike and Pax leave. Gus’s weird knack is for lurking menacingly in disco shirts.
The next day, Mike is feeling various fabric samples and trying to properly identify them. Like detective flashcards. He gets corduroy and silk right, but those are easy. Do rayon and sateen, Mike! Make him guess linen and then hypoallergenic bamboo weave! Nikki, who’s in charge of the test, is listening as he wonders about Deckbar’s general truthfulness. She surmises that he paid somebody to steal the horns for his collection. But, Mike wants to know, why would he donate Jimbo’s trumpet and then steal it back?
Mike guesses linen, but it’s cotton. Nikki doesn’t immediately give him a linen sample so that he can feel the differences. She’s terrible. I’m still so mad about the dog cookie thing and creeped out by her story about the lost puppy.
“Clayton?” She asks, handing him some wool that he immediately guesses.
Clayton has no motive that Mike can see. Which takes us back to Gus, who has already confessed to the audience. It’s providing a weird note of uncertainty that I kind of like, but is also a little annoying. What are we supposed to be doing? Waiting for Mike to piece everything together? Wondering if Gus is as guilty as we think he is? Going to get snacks?
Gus doesn’t seem like a killer to Mike, but Nikki calls him out on wearing kid gloves because of his friendship with Danny.
“You think I can’t see something that’s right in front of me?” Mike demands.
That’s cold, Nikki.
Mike tells Nikki to feel the cloth of his shirt and guess what it is. She guesses poplin, but it’s Oxford cloth. Nikki says she was going to invite him over for dinner, but since he’s proving he isn’t incompetent, now she’s not.
“I was going to fix you red beans and rice, and that up the country food you flip over!”
But, I guess, since you’re so self-sufficient, you can stay here and eat Pax’s kibble! So there!
All this talk of going up the country reminds Mike of an errand he needs done. Can Nikki head up to Tibideaux and check out a birth certificate?
Meantime, he’s not satisfied with writing off Mr. Deckbar just yet.
It’s time to make another visit to the house that looks like a brothel decorated by Morticia Adams.
Mike tells Deckbar that the Crescent City Kings records were recovered, and was wondering if there’s been any murmurs about the horns. Deckbar is annoyed and hostile, but Mike’s in high spirits because he likes annoying people. Just a little bit.
Deckbar wants to know what this visit is all about.
“Well, for thing, that private jazz collection of yours. I’d like to see it,” says Mike.
Deckbar peps up. His collection is his baby. He takes him into his trophy room, and laments that Mike can’t actually see things like the photographs. On a center table is a clarinet with some quirks that I don’t quite understand because I know literally nothing about clarinets. Mike, however, uses these quirks to identify it as Jojo Miller’s.
Let that be a lesson to the more criminally oriented among you: hide things. Even if the detective is blind. Hide stolen things.
Well, that’s Deckbar undone.
“I haven’t slept since I got it,” he confesses. “I was going to give it back to the Jazz Society. I just wanted to… have it for a while.”
Mike believes him. It’s not hard to. Now that his role in this is all laid out, he doesn’t seem like that bad of a guy.
“About two weeks ago, when I realized I had Jimbo Rollins’s horn, I released the story to the press. That evening, some gentleman phoned me, said he wanted to buy it. When I refused, he threatened me. That’s when I decided to donate the horn to the Society.”
Deckbar’s secrets are all out now, and they’re just tiny clues to bigger secrets. Mike thanks him for his time and candor, and gives him the opportunity to return Jojo’s clarinet to the Jazz Society himself.
That evening, it’s time to head back to Molly’s club and pull some shit.
While the band is taking five, Mike sneaks on stage to sniff Gus’s bass. Rosin. The stuff that smells like cosmoline. It’s used to get clearer notes out of the strings.
Time to confront Danny in the backroom.
Mike lays out all of the clues so far, beginning with the rosin. And the smudged fingerprint? That came from a callus, like the kind any bass player might have. And the bass player for the group playing that night wasn’t sick, Mike talked to him, Danny called to ask to swap gigs.
Danny gets mad and yells at Mike for trying to put Gus away. Then he calls him whitey and it’s super awkward.
They just kind of stand there, two blind men separated by colours they can’t even see anymore.
Danny tells Mike that Gus stole the horn for him. He tried to buy it off of Deckbar, threatened him, but it wound up with the Jazz Society. So he started calling and threatening Doucette, but to no avail.
“I needed that horn.”
Because he’s Jimbo’s son. His mother was Mattia Roberts.
“Look, Danny, I know that your father’s horn must’ve had a lot of sentimental value, but sentiment isn’t enough to have Gus go and steal it. There must’ve been something more. Something urgent. Maybe something like Jimbo still being alive.”
Yes. Jimbo is still alive.
But not for long. His heart is basically a time bomb – all he does is have massive coronaries and talk about the old days. He faked his death years ago because his lip was gone, and he owed everybody in town money; then he drifted up to the northern part of the state and murdered a man in a barroom brawl. The secret place Danny gets Gus to drive him to? Prison visits with his father.
Mike mentions that Molly thinks Danny is cheating on her, but there are bigger fish to fry.
Danny explains that his father is a dying old man who just talks and talks about that old horn. He had to get it for him. And yes, Gus killed Doucette, but he thought he just hit him; he didn’t even realize that the man was dead until he read the paper.
Gus hears Danny ratting him out and bursts in for a truly epic freak out.
“No way am I going into that place like your old man! Don’t tell nothing to the fuzz! Nobody is going to the fuzz! I didn’t even hit him that hard!”
Mike, you know the secret whisper now, and the only rule about knowing the secret whisper is that you don’t tell it to policemen. Even if it’s about murder.
Gus calms down a little, and says he knocked Doucette into the bar, stole the goods and split.
The bar? But, Mike tripped over Doucette by the display cases, not by the bar. The bar was on the other side of the room.
Mike double checks that Gus absolutely only hit Doucette once, and it was by the bar.
Danny, ignoring that clues are happening, explains that Gus stole the other stuff to cover up what he was really after, and that they got Gus’s twelve year old nephew to sell the records and clarinet to that shop.
The next morning, a quick call from Deckbar lets Mike know that he’s returned the clarinet, and that he’s been given that vacancy on the board he’d been gunning for.
Mike avoids saying anything about Danny.
After the call, Nikki hassles him about what he’s planning to do. He says he’s not turning anybody in until he has the full picture.
Time for another visit to the Crescent City Jazz Society and Ralph Clayton. It’s wonderful that the clarinet was returned, isn’t it? And Mike has a line on the trumpet, he thinks he’ll get it back just as soon as an old man in prison dies, but that’s no matter right now.
Clayton starts to sweat.
You know what was so strange about the night of the robbery? Mike didn’t hear any glass break. All he heard was the thwack, the groan, and the jazz. No smash. Which means that the smash had to have happened before he got there. Before the thwack.
The man who killed Doucette didn’t steal the horns.
He’s going to tell the police all about it tomorrow morning.
Later that night, Mike shuts his house up. He puts Pax in the den, closes the drapes, and makes sure everything is as dark as he can make it.
Then he unlocks the front door.
This is a trap.
A few minutes later, there’s a knock on the door. Mike’s voice calls to come in. A figure makes his way towards the living room.
“I’m over here!” Mike says from somewhere in the dark, and the figure shoots at the direction of the voice.
But it’s a recording. A cassette player in a Mike-shaped pile of cushions.
The real Mike easily subdues his would-be murderer, and to little surprise, it’s Clayton. Pax is let out of the den, to growl ferociously and keep Clayton in place as we hear the story.
Clayton did it because he was drunk, and jealous, and knew that Doucette was better at social politics. Did it matter that he knew more about jazz and rightfully should have been Director? Not to the fancy champagne drinking board. When he saw that a robbery had taken place, he decided it was as good a time as any to murder his boss. He was going to finish off Doucette while he was still by the bar, but then Mike interrupted him. Doucette woke up while Mike was calling for him in the office, and started to head that way, and that’s when Clayton struck him.
Now there’s just one last thing to take care of.
Danny, Molly, and Mike take Jimbo his trumpet. The old man is pleased as anything to see his horn again.
The sweet sounds of jazz fill the prison corridors.
One last song from Jimbo Rollins.
And that wraps everything up.
Hey, by the way! If you’re in the market for a charitable cause that’s not necessarily fashionable, but could always use a hand, please look into the training programs for guide dogs and autism support dogs in your area. They need tons of equipment to practice with, and it can cost up to $35,000 to turn them from chubby little balls of fur into life-changing companions. Very often there are options for you to sponsor a puppy while he goes through the program, which means not only are you being a decent member of the community, you’re getting weekly pictures of a puppy!