To his family, he was known as Trance Williams. To his fans and colleagues in the music world, it was Triple-XXX. What distinguished him in the rap scene were his clean lyrics, wholesome sounds and virtuous themes. Then, in the time it takes to fire a bullet, his life was stolen on the streets of Detroit.
The police dismissed the killing as drug-related. “Drug-related?” shouted his famous football star brother and their whole family. The kid never touched a joint. What they did not know was that he had his hands in something far more lethal, a self-assigned investigation into the murder of his closest friend months earlier. Trance would learn that the record industry had come under the grip of a group of nasty and tough criminals. The kid came a little too close.
Cookie Acosta, a fledgling private sleuth hired by the family, was following the exact same path that Trance’s life ended on. She was also targeted for elimination. But then a funny thing happened on the way to…a meeting with the police chief.
Music And Murder is the follow up to the popular novel Crushing Dreams. As the title suggests, Music And Murder is a murder suspense mystery centered in the corruption of the music industry. You can find it now at Amazon and Smashwords.
MUSIC AND MURDER
A Benny Wright Story: Book 2
Dennis A Nehamen
Golden Poppy Publications Los Angeles
Music and Murder
By Dennis A Nehamen
Copyright © 2017 Dennis A Nehamen All Rights Reserved
Published by Golden Poppy Publications™ Los Angeles, CA
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by and information storage and retrieval system without written permission from Golden Poppy Publications or Dennis A Nehamen except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
All images, logos, quotes and trademarks included in this book are subject to use according to trademark and copyright laws of the United States of America.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016906836
Lyrical Passages by Craig M Nehamen
Cover by Cline Cover Design Nehamen, Dennis A Author
Music and Murder
Dennis A Nehamen
Printed in the United States of America First Edition
I recall many years ago having a patient who was a top executive at a record company. He sought me out for my professional counsel not owing to music, but to murder. Who it was that had been eliminated did not matter, and he had no intent to disclose to me the identity of the unfortunate target of revenge and betrayal. He was aware that crime had been committed; his problem was that he was too frightened to report it. Sharing with me was his only relief from the enduring agony he was suffering.
Music and Murder: He assured me that beneath the glitz and glamour of the celebrities entertaining the public was a world of hard nose business people, ones that didn’t
like it when things went against them. Trance Williams, known as Triple-XXX, and his buddy Brent Calhoun, performing under the name of Rough Diamond, found out the hard way.
Fortunately, not all souls aspiring for artistic fame and wealth wash up dead on to beaches of obscurity. Most graduate their fantasies of acclaim into the simple joy and wonder of creation, and in this way achieve satisfaction perhaps greater than those glorified for their contributions. This book is dedicated to the pursuits and projects of the unheralded and unacknowledged artists of the world—one might label them, the true survivors.
CHAPTER 1: BLOODY BAD LUCK…AGAIN
It was almost five in the afternoon. Fall had descended on our neighborhood in a most generous and gorgeous fashion. The signature pair of giant white ash trees canopying our home—lovebirds, a male and a female— had been dressed in a yellow color although there was a purple shading on the underside of the leaves that rained beams of sparkling light that were being sopped up by the moistness of the ground below.
I had just arrived home. Through the large bay window of our living room, I was admiring the dignity of these specimens that proudly distinguished my modest house. It was then that I noticed a vehicle come to a stop across the street. I vaguely recognized it as one I had seen many times before but didn’t make the connection until the man driving hopped out. Then I understood why the car struck a tone of familiarity: it belonged to a young man I’d mentored with his career as a singer and performer, Trance Williams.
I noticed he vigilantly scanned every direction. Even from a distance, I could discern that he was agitated over something. He jogged across the asphalt street and then along the cement path leading to the porch of my home. I opened the door before he had the opportunity to knock. Trance stood staring at me. At first, he didn’t say a word.
When he noticed my wife Jewel sitting reading a book, he waved to her and forced a smile before motioning to me that he preferred that I come outdoors where he could talk to me in private. The weather had made a dramatic turn during the previous week, another autumnal indicator. In fact, it was quite cold and I hadn’t taken a coat with me.
“I’m sorry, Benny,” Trance panted. “I needed to see you.”
“Let’s get into my car…it’s a bit chilly for an old guy like me,” I joked to relieve a tension, the source of which I had no idea.
Trance was usually a very cool, easy-going kid. In truth, I’d never witnessed him in a funk.
“Benny, I might be in some trouble,” he stammered. “I don’t want to get you involved…with all you’ve been through.”
“Why don’t you tell me what you’re talking about and let’s see if we can’t figure out what to do?”
I thought he was going to educate me about the issue that was bothering him, when I heard a sound from outside my home. I glanced left. Jewel was calling me. I opened the window and she shouted that my friend, Simon, was on the phone. I told her to let him know I’d call back. In the interim, Trance appeared to reach an even greater level of angst. I noticed that he was breathing heavily and despite the temperature in my car, his underarms had produced sufficient moisture to change the color of his pale blue t-shirt to a foreboding deep oceanic tone.
Then he did what I was not expecting. He abruptly whipped open the passenger-door and jumped out.
“Benny, God Bless you. You’ve meant a lot to me. I’ll never forget what you’ve done.”
Then he made a quick dash back into his car. “Trance, we can talk about it,” I entreated as he leapt into the driver’s seat and drove off at a speed inappropriate for a residential area.
I went back into the house and sat down across from Jewel.
“What was it, dear? My wife wondered, noticing me trying to make sense of what had happened.
“I really don’t know. Trance seemed very upset… wanted to talk with me alone. Then before he said a word about what he needed to discuss, he took off in a frenzy.”
“Girlfriend problems…most likely. He is a young boy.”
“Last I talked to him a couple weeks ago, he wasn’t even dating,” I recalled. “Honey, this is something more than that. He was scared.”
“Why don’t you reach out then—call him and offer to go see him.”
“I tried to call him back before I came in. He didn’t answer.”
“I know how much he means to you. Benny. Why don’t you get in the car and drive over to his place? If you put yourself out like that, I’m sure he’ll respond. A man his age can get embarrassed about the strangest things—look at your son,” Jewel chuckled, having witnessed Dion’s erratic behavior after a disappointment or setback.
“You’re right, Jewel, my love. You’re always right… Wright’s are like that,” I quipped, referring to my last name, Wright.
Why I would think Trance would go home, I couldn’t have answered other than Jewel had suggested it. Still, I headed off in that direction, a twenty-minute drive. When I neared his place, I knew from experience that the parking was not ideal close to his building. I, therefore, went around the block to where there were no vehicle restrictions.
The evening had darkened as if in a hurry to hide a secret. In a moment’s time, the cloud cover shielded the moon and heavenly stars. There were no streetlights and the only illumination was from the porch lights in front of the small homes. I parked and was about to get out of the car, when I noticed a man running down the street like a sprinter—I froze in terror.
It wasn’t that I recognized the figure. Instead, it was the fact that the imagery was identical to what I had witnessed one other time in my life. Every germ of the emotional pus that I had worked three years to squeeze beneath my conscious awareness, had in the time it takes for a star to flicker charged like an assault soldier to ravage my senses.
Was it bloody bad luck? Was I doomed to live the rest of my life knowing that at any instant the sense of inner peace I had tentatively embraced might be erased?
I watched the dim outline of what I was sure was a male streaking along the sidewalk. Then, the scene continued as if it might have been a recording track stored on the hard drive in my mind. A car screeched around the corner, seeming to be in pursuit of the creature that I now assumed was in mortal danger. As the individual saw the vehicle coming, he broke right, apparently to hide in the bushes…it was too late. Rifle fire opened from the front and rear passenger side of what I now viewed as a van. The figure taking the barrage of bullets
froze momentarily before dropping like a tree sawed off at the base.
The probability of the man surviving, I judged to be minimal. His body jerked madly in every which direction as one shot after another pelted his torso, abdomen and limbs: the force of the bullets held his body upright until finally he keeled over. As I was gazing upward in horror through the windshield of my car, I noticed the vehicle from which the gunfire had come disappearing into darkness. Still, I was able to discern that it had no license plates.
As had been the case when years earlier I’d seen a man gunned down, nobody was on the street and not one resident had come out of their home to investigate the origin of the noise. Another similarity was that I instinctively flung open my car door and ran over to see if I could assist the man…that’s when I fell over weeping. It was Trance Williams. To me, he was a mere boy. I had adored him and I know he had looked up to me for inspiration—the same Trance that only minutes before had come to me for council. He was oozing blood, red liquid coming from at least eight observable fresh orifices in his flesh.
He was wearing nothing but the same thin t-shirt he had on at my house, making the wound holes and the red staining all the more grotesque. I took off my coat and wrapped it around his chest, trying to keep him warm. Then I pulled out my cell phone and called 911.
Fortunately, I knew the name of the street. In seconds, I had ordered an ambulance—though I could tell it wasn’t the type of vehicle that would be needed to transport Trance to his next destination.
When I bent down to try and speak to him and ask him what happened, all he could do was stare back at me with a blank face. I could tell that life was rapidly gushing from his body. I heard the sound of a siren approaching. That’s when Trance reached out with his right arm, grabbing my elbow and pulling me toward him.
“Read the papers,” he whispered. “You’ll know what to do.” Then he stopped. I watched as he tried with all his will to take another breath of air. It was a small one. As he exhaled, he attempted to instruct me further. “They’re in…”
Trance never finished his next thought. I wish he had. That he wasn’t able to, cost me a heap of suffering, and nearly my life.
His head rested on my lap. The bleeding from the neck first pulsed and then slowed to a dribble as his heart quit—I could feel the wet hot liquid as it seeped through the heavy fabric of my black jean pants. I sat numbly on the ground. I waited, knowing exactly what to expect. Soon the detectives would arrive and…
The siren sound was getting louder, alerting me that the authorities were approaching. I then sensed a vehicle come to a halt several feet from where I was sitting.
The lights were flashing white and red. There were voices but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. A man exited the vehicle and ran over to me. He flicked out his badge to display his identification, and at the same time perfunctorily introduced himself as Detective Dick Howell of the Detroit Police Department. I could have written his script for him. It was the same one I listened to at the first murder scene.
“You a relative?” I shook my head.
“I’m sorry you had to witness this…we’ll take it from here,” he advised me as he lifted me to my feet.
By then the damp air was soaking up the sound of police squad cars descending on the murder scene. Howell asked me a couple of questions. Another officer fresh on the scene called out to Howell who then sternly instructed me to sit, pointing to the sidewalk. When he returned a moment later, for a second time he used both hands to lift me by the arms like a barbell. Then he walked me off a short distance to a dark area in front of a home.
“Did you know this man?” Howell asked.
“No, sir.” I lied. “I happened by chance to be out here walking.”
The deceit popped out as a visceral knee-jerk response. Only later, would I be able to excuse the wrongful act with the explanation that I needed to distance myself from an event I instinctively knew would suck me back into a traumatic situation.
“What about the driver or anyone in the vehicle? You’re sure you couldn’t make out details of the car or driver?”
“I’m positive. It was dark. I saw it was a van of some sort but I couldn’t tell what make—oh, yeah, it had no plates.” I was shivering but not from the air temperature. It felt like a motor racing inside my ribcage causing a quivering sensation all through my body. “Look, I don’t know a thing; this is really upsetting.”
“Do you have some identification?”
I reached for my wallet and handed Howell my driver’s license, watching as he wrote down the information. I could see by then that several citizens were observing the scene from a distance. The ambulance attendants were covering the body.
“What about a phone number?” Howell asked. “(313) 760-2349,” I managed to pass out of my chattering lips.
“Why don’t you take off, son?” Howell proposed. “I’ll get in touch with you if we need to speak with you again.”
It was the strangest impression that came over me as Howell suggested I leave. I had to be mistaken but I’d have sworn he wanted to get rid of me.
I walked up the block to where my car was parked. I sat behind the wheel and wept. It was over an hour before the police, emergency team and crowd left the area. I never moved. I must have been invisible in the blackness of night because nobody paid any further attention to me.
Finally, I started the engine. Then I took off for home. I’d been traumatized in the past so I understood the symptoms. When Jewel saw me, blood staining my shirt and around my neck, she shrieked. It was a déjà vu experience for her, just as it had been for me. “Twice?” she shouted in disbelief.
She broke down in tears and we sobbed in each other’s arms.
“Trance?” she posed hesitantly.
I nodded, explaining to her the few details I could. Fortunately, both of my children, Dion and Shana, were out. I showered and went to bed…sleeping was another story. I twisted and turned all night. The few times I must have drifted off, I awakened with a profusion of sweat and the dreadfully real imagery of Trance pulling me toward his butchered body. Then his words: Read the papers. You’ll know what to do. They’re in…
The words zipped through my mind. I broke them into syllables and watched as they each moved circularly in my head. They seemed to march as if in a parade, each revolution bringing them back for my inspection. I tried to make sense of their meaning. It was an exhausting exercise that ran what I thought was hundreds of full cycles before I’d drift briefly into sleep, only to then be drawn back into the experience.
I rehearsed the evening’s events. Trance had been distressed when he came to see me. Then he ran off for some unknown reason. I went to find him. When I arrived close to where he lived, I saw him charging down the street. Then there was the van and rifle shots. Finally, Trance dropped to the ground.
He had to know he was in danger, that somebody considered him a threat. It was definitely not a random, recreational shooting by some demented teenagers. The papers had to be the key. Something Trance knew was so threatening to somebody else that they wanted to kill him to prevent him from speaking. The documents must have contained some sort of proof regarding… perhaps a crime.
It made sense up to that point. But how would I know what to do? To address that question, I’d need to have knowledge of the contents of the material that Trance had mentioned. Yet that was impossible for me to determine unless I knew where the papers were. That was where the fatal rupture occurred. Trance died before he was able to tell me where to find them—round and round I went, always terminating at the same dead end.
There was no reason to mention his final sentences to anyone else. In fact, after several days of deliberating where he might have put them so that I would be able to examine the contents, I gave up. Bloody bad luck for Trance—damn good luck for whomever he was about to implicate in a serious crime. I concluded that the trail ended with Trance’s last breath. Some unknown party had been saved by no more than a single instant in time. In a way, I was relieved. What would I have done had Trance been able to instruct me regarding finding the answer to this puzzle? If they did incriminate another individual or group, would I have risked my life, possibly the safety and wellness of my family, to step up with the evidence? Especially I wondered what action, if any, I might take given I knew that Trance had been killed over that very information. I was unburdened ethically and morally for the matter could go no further—at least that’s what I was blessed to believe for some time until… Perhaps before going further, I might solve the mystery of how this became the second murder I’d witnessed—it has no direct weight on this tale but does provide an understanding of my background and how I had known Trance. In addition, it might excuse any deficiencies in my ability to scribe this fascinating story for the truth is that rather than an author…I am a manager at an automobile factory in Detroit, Michigan.
Once upon a time, I had been a factory line-worker and during that same era of my life I considered myself an aspiring musical composer, lyricist and performer. The truth is, I was quite talented. In fact, only hours before the tragic murder I observed three years before watching Trance gunned down, I had been in New York, about to sign a real-deal musical contract with a major recording label. Then, at the last instant, the execs decided that my material didn’t fit with their lineup of artists and they nixed me out of their world as easily as placing an “X” in a tic-tac-toe game.
It was devastating to me. My family and I had sacrificed for a decade so that I could pursue my career. In my heart I believed I had promised them that success was just around the corner and that when it happened I, Benny Wright, would be providing them a lifestyle greater than what I’d ever be able to accomplish as a mere blue collar worker.
In an attempt to ease the pain I was experiencing, I stopped to have a beer before going home to share the bad news with my beloved wife and children. That was when I saw the stranger shot and killed in a fashion that was nearly identical to Trance’s murder. The duel catastrophic events of not being signed to the record deal and then viewing the shooting set in motion a cascading torrent of foolish decisions on my part that nearly cost me my family.
It was during this phase of crisis that by chance I met a man named Simon Ritter. He became a dear and devoted friend—even better, a mentor. He encouraged me to write the story of my life, not as a professional project but as a therapeutic tool. I did. In fact, after completing the manuscript I thought I was doing fairly well. My life settled down and I was able to advance at work.
I had deleted the quest for fame and fortune not with a single keystroke but rather, if I recall correctly, closer to three-hundred thousand key taps, not counting revisions.
That was two years plus a few months before…slam! I was back in trouble. This book is my second experience with journaling as a therapeutic intervention.
CHAPTER 2: THE MOTOR CITY
During the years I yearned for Benny Wright to be a known figure in the entertainment world, the truth was that my name wouldn’t have been easily recognized by the mass of mankind on the street. Still, in the local music scene in Detroit, Magic, my stage name, had been known as a quality artist. I had written and produced my own music. My lyrics were all original.
As a performer, I was acknowledged as one who could bring excitement to any audience watching me.
It wasn’t uncommon that I’d be called on to appear at a street concert or less often as a third act at a larger venue. I also think, if I were to be objective, that I had a reputation for being generous with my talent. It was not infrequent that I would help some of the younger artists with paternal advice on their careers—odd considering that mine never took off.
For Trance Williams, I had a particular fondness. He went by the stage name of Triple-XXX. I’d occasionally volunteer to help him out by playing as a backup musician for one of his performances. My caring was expressed in other ways as well with Trance; there were a few times that I let him perform beats and lyrics I had written.
It may have been that when I looked at Triple-XXX, I unconsciously noticed a similarity to myself. We were both nice looking men—we shared a similarity of skin color, a creamy tan reflecting another piece of background that was common to each of us; our fathers were African-American and our mothers Caucasian. Our height and build were nearly identical, each of us weighing in at just under two hundred pounds.
There was more that bonded us. He was a clean-cut kid who created music that represented a similar offset as mine did to the gangsta’ rap that featured filthy language and violent themes—both of us wrote about topics that were clean and wholesome, and our lyrics were nearly void of profanity. Our lines relied more on clever manipulation of words and phrases—the employment of alliteration and assonance, rhythms and cadences— to create a poetic journey.
Well over a decade separated us by age—Triple-XXX was only nineteen when he was gunned down. Sure, he’d get headstrong, but never did he display a cocky attitude; youthful exuberance would best describe his persona. I thought of Trance as a boy-man, maturity in many areas was far beyond his years.
I was also drawn to him because I believed he had a fair chance of rising in his career. If I had to choose from the local up and coming hip-hop artists who would have the greatest chance to make it out of our city and into the national music scene, no doubt it would have been Trance Williams. In fact, his stock value had already begun making a notable jump. He had only months before his death signed a contract with Z & Z Beat Records. He was cutting tracks and entertaining in front of larger performance audiences.
All of these factors contributed toward me not being able to bury the tragedy of my second murder scene. I wanted more than anything to shake off the gory images and sad memories haunting me. I prayed for it to fade from my mind so that I could go on with my life in peace. It was not to be: no matter what I tried, the murder of Triple-XXX preyed on me.
Three years earlier, both before and while encountering my own life crisis, it was a normal part of my routine to stop off at Jimbo’s, a tiny spot near my place where I’d horse around with the guys and have a beer. I was not visiting with the same frequency I had in the past, but I’d stop by enough to catch up with my best friend, Craig, and another buddy, Link.
So it was not by chance that the afternoon after I witnessed Trance’s murder, I went in for a drink—I shouldn’t have. Everyone was gabbing about Triple-XXX. Nobody had a clue what happened but everyone had their own theory that they were certain was correct. Most important for me was that just hearing the matter being tossed around by the customers sickened me, so much so that Craig took notice that I didn’t look well.
“Benny, I haven’t seen you looking this bad for a few years. I know you cared a lot for the kid.”
I didn’t say anything but I dropped my head enough for my friend to take it as an invitation to investigate my gloom.
“You know anything about it?” he posed. “Not really,” I lied again.
“I’m sorry, man. They’ll find the bastard that did it.” “I hope so,” I responded with such dispassion that it contradicted the sadness evident on my face.
“How’s Jewel and the kids?” he queried to change the subject.
The beer mug in front of me was full. I nodded to let him know that they were well; then I lifted my drink and in one motion tilted the glass until the bottom shot a reflection of blue light straight up at the ceiling.
“One more should do it, Jimbo,” I called out to the proprietor. “I’m walking home and need some love.”
At that moment, Link had joined us. “One more is all any of us want,” he declared with a pat on my back. Then he took a seat by my side. “How many one mores is the question,” he jived, loud enough for most of the patrons to appreciate his attempt at humoring away the guilt suffered by those that made a sport of losing track of how many one mores they’d called out.
“Let me rephrase it for Jimbo then. One last one,” I pronounced.
“Have it your way but I’m in the mood to drink to Trance, and it’s going to take an ocean of suds for me to get over missing him. You have any idea, Benny, what happened?”
I had no idea why Link would ask a question similar to Craig. Still, I kept quiet, shaking my head to assure him that I was as blind to the details of the kid’s death as my friends. Unfortunately, his bringing up the subject again caused me to agitate over the unpleasant thought that I’d now lied about Trance’s killing to three people.
I had never been a heavy drinker. Rarely would I have more than one Bud and I’d make it last whatever amount of time I’d be at the bar. Ordering the second had to reflect the fact that fibbing takes a toll on the conscience—greater amounts of deceit require larger doses of vice to palliate the soul. Two barely did it for me that evening.
During the past two years, my career as a factory manager had been on the rise. I was brought up to work hard and never cheat my employer out of a fair day’s labor. As a result, I was respected. During my early years on the job, while I considered it a temporary gig until my music took off, upper management would approach me with offers to join their club, initially as a supervisor. Their promise was that I could earn my way up the ladder—I’d always refuse. Then after resolving that music wasn’t going to be part of my plan for the future, I buckled down at the factory. No doors had been closed. In no time, I was pushed up the chain. In fact, I’d already attained the title of department head and was receiving hints that I might be next in line for an upcoming divisional position.
Every weekday morning, I’d get up at five-thirty and take off for the plant. The shift began at six-thirty but religiously I’d make it a point to be there at least fifteen minutes early. The morning after going to Jimbo’s was no exception. Then the day unfolded uneventfully, except for not being able to put Trance out of my mind. After I left work, I went over to Arnie’s Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a privately owned shop where I still went frequently to meet with my mentor, Simon.
I can say confidently that he possessed a wisdom I’d never known in another person. He was the furthest from any definition of a formally religious man, yet he had the type of faith and confidence in the human spirit that was deliriously infectious.
He hadn’t changed a tad in appearance since I met him three years earlier—I might not have either. Simon buzzed his shiny silver hair in a crew using his own set of shears. I had several years to go before I’d be looking at my next decadal birth celebration—forty—while I knew my spiritual guide had a couple years before tiptoed like a sleep-walker past sixty.
Fortunate for the little guy, his spine hadn’t surrendered even a fraction of an inch of his five-foot-six inch frame…and his dietary habits had kept his figure tight and slim. Most important, I was certain that the man would someday reach his final moment exuding the same signature youthful, childish, attitude that defined his remarkableness. He maintained the softness of gait of an Indian hunter and the stride of a gentleman who had renounced worry. Even his smooth, clear skin remained unblemished.
An avid reader, he was deep in concentration on a book when I came in. There was also a newspaper on the chair next to him. He was sitting by himself and didn’t look up, although I could tell he sensed my presence long before I came to his table. He reached to pick up the paper so I could sit directly next to him.
With it in his hand, he flipped over the sheets until he had it open to the front page. Pointing, he directed my attention to another article addressing corruption in the city government.
“This city is a cesspool of fraud, political filth and vice. Now the Director of the Department of Public Works is being prosecuted. His little scheme allowed him to steal millions from contracts for new sanitation trucks,” Simon smiled. My friend was an expert on the topic of local governance, particularly the offenses of leadership, and he delighted in sharing news of all their shenanigans. “Believe me, before it’s over he’ll be suing the city for his pension, compensation benefits and unlawful termination. It’s a sick puppy we’re living with… and at the national level it gets worse,” he chirped.
“Dangerous place,” I mindlessly added to the list of Detroit’s least attractive titles—though I didn’t mention my association with Trance’s murder.
“Is Detroit a dangerous city?” Simon mimicked my statement. “Take a listen to this,” he howled as he snatched the paper and then turned to an inside page. Government officials in Detroit have recently been heard bragging that crime, once believed to be on a pace to supplant auto manufacturing as the most recognized headline of the metropolitan area, has been on the decrease since the 1970’s. In fact, the authorities hailed a 2006 study concluding that crime in downtown Detroit was lower than the national, state and metropolitan averages.
Simon paused to smite the article by smacking it on the edge of the table. “There’s more these goons are gloating over, Benny. Pay attention,” he playfully instructed as he read portions of the article.
A 2007 survey concluded that Detroit had only the sixth highest rate of violent crime among the twenty-five largest cities in the U. S. Better still, an FBI report showed that between 2000 and 2004 there was a drop of 23% in violent crimes in our city, and the downward trend continued up to the issuance of a study in 2008.
The Detroit Police Department’s Crime Analysis Unit is not to be outdone in celebrating their great achievements in law enforcement. They proclaim that by introducing gaming in the city—as well as a neighborhood stimulus plans—crime has decreased 24%.
My friend could have been a great satirist, evidenced by his entertaining presentation of the newspaper article written by a journalist who had to share Simon’s disgust for corruption and governmental deceit. “Why would any fool pay millions for a home in Mission Viejo, California—by the way, rated about the safest city in the country—when for a literal tenth of the price you can settle in Detroit? For god sakes, Benny, let’s call everybody we know and enlighten them to the best kept secret in America.”
Simon wasn’t finished. “That material I read you, it was taken from the New York Times. Benny, it’s one of the few editorial sources left on earth that still occasionally publishes a well-researched article. The writer did his homework before completing the piece. Listen!”
I continued my inquiry into crime in the Windsor-Detroit area, known as home to over five million people. I found conflicting data, Mike Stobbs, the reporter, disclosed. Frankly, I was scratching my head trying to figure out what was truth and what was fiction. It seems a private, so-called unbiased group— CQ Press— studied presumably the same FBI statistics and concluded that the Motor City was the most dangerous in the country, nosing out its neighbor, St. Louis.
Their findings did not go over well with officials embarrassed by the report. They were quick to damn the maverick analysts at CQ Press for preparing a paper doing groundless harm to Detroit, as well as other cities they claimed to have been senselessly besmirched.
Evidently when somebody at the FBI was approached for an explanation as to the divergent interpretations, his take was that analyzing the two studies against one another was worse than comparing apples to oranges—instead he proposed the analogy of watermelons to grapes as being a more fitting representation.
“All fruits to me,” Stobbs humored, “but I’m not an FBI man.”
The article concluded:
Most alarming to me as I studied the matter was a notation in 2008 that the Detroit Police Department under-reported homicides by misclassifying criminal incidents.
“The Police Chief of Detroit must have kept his mug shut,” concluded Simon as he pushed aside the paper. “I can’t find anywhere that he issued a rejoinder. The man employed to protect us didn’t have to; the protuberance of his nose, I’m sure, would do the talking for him.”
We all know statistics can be twisted, shaped and contorted. But what shocked me about Simon having chosen to tee off on this piece that was highlighting confabulated data pertaining to assessing the safety of the center of the auto industry in America, was that Trance Williams had been killed right in front of me within the last forty-eight hours, hardly an indication that we were living in a safe city.
Over the course of the next few days, as Jewel filled me in on the news reports, it became evident that the man (Trance) the media referenced having been shot dead, and in cold blood (that was an indisputable fact) for some unimaginable and unexplained reason, had been determined by the police authorities to have succumbed to a random, drive-by incident. When I heard that, my thoughts immediately returned to my earlier discussion with Simon. Something was not on the up and up for the police to publicly make that statement.
I’m not certain if I said anything to my wife to suggest that The Police Department’s conclusion might be inaccurate. Still, for some reason Jewel expressed unmitigated doubt on her own. “A drive by shooting? Is that possible, Benny?” she scowled.
I scanned the newspapers for days after she’d summarized her conclusion. There was no follow up; it was as if the murder never happened. Granted, Trance was not a widely recognized celebrity. Still, he had a large following locally and even regionally. It was news! Yet the police were content—more accurately eager— to dismiss the matter. Could the explanation for their indifference be as benign as a statistical preference? I wondered. Again my mind referred back to the article Simon had shared with the intent of placing local corruption in bold letters.
Trance Williams may not have rated a full battalion of detectives investigating his case. But as it was, only one had been assigned to look into the murder, though even then little time and energy had been deployed toward examining why this innocent kid had been gunned down…gangland style. Unimportant as it might have seemed to the authorities, Trance’s killing was about to begin a war. I hoped I could sit on the sidelines and watch. Yeah, right.
Whatever was the motive of our dear police department, within days it became evident that their nonchalance didn’t sit well with Trance’s family, especially his big brother. There was nearly a decade separating the two men, with four other siblings between the oldest and youngest children of Vernon and Gloria Williams. Marvin, the oldest sibling, was big to the family not only due to being a healthy sized specimen and the most senior of the offspring, but also because he was one of an elite group of athletes in the National Football League.
He was quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. So honored to have him as their on-field leader, the team secured the 28 year-old star two years earlier by coming to terms with him on the largest contract in team history, an eight-year, one-hundred-thirty-nine million guaranteed deal—that’s big.
The young man had all the wealth, fame and esteem one could dream of, yet he hardly fit the expected mold of a wild, foolish kid enjoying too much of the good life at too early an age. He refrained from drugs and alcohol. He dated, but was in no hurry to marry. He had sought out advice to help develop a sound investment program…his only extravagance was doting over his family. If he could assist his brothers and sisters developing their talents, he was avid about doing so. Thus it was a fact that from the time young Trance first decided to pursue his career as an entertainer, he had the full backing of his big brother.
Then, after being murdered, the loss had the full outrage of Marvin. That is, when the star athlete contacted the Detroit Police Department and expressed his opinion that his brother might have been targeted for murder, the police sloughed off his concerns. They insisted that they found nothing to suggest wrongdoing. It was their contention that, sadly, Trance had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The basis for the family’s demand that the police further investigate was that Trance had called home the day he was murdered. He spoke hastily with his father. Later Mr. Williams would describe his son as sounding “terribly frightened” as he said that he might be in danger. His son didn’t want to elaborate on the phone but promised he was planning to drive out to the suburb where the family home was that evening so he could discuss his concerns with his father. Piecing the story together, I have to conclude that Trance’s plan was to conduct some sort of business with me, and then counsel with his family.
The case had been assigned to Detective Steve Ramon. Marvin and the family had waited at home initially to allow the police time to look into what happened. When they heard the position of the department, they couldn’t let it rest. They had already conveyed to Ramon information about the call from Trance to his father. Still, the official police response was that unless the family could produce some evidence of wrongdoing, there was really no basis for allocating precious manpower of The Department to continue investigating beyond what they would routinely do with any other motiveless criminal event—basically cursory police work with the objective to prepare a report.
Ramon insisted that they had done due diligence in terms of scouring the neighbors for clues but they had come up empty. At most, there were a couple residents reporting that they did hear the sound of screeching tires and of rapid rifle fire, but could add no other details.
Trance had no criminal record. Ramon explained to Marvin that he had personally interviewed several of Trance’s friends, but even after that the detective had concluded that nothing out of the ordinary had been taking place in his private or professional life to raise suspicion of an intentional killing.
Most remarkable was that the sole witness to the murder, Benny Wright, had never been contacted by the police for a follow up interrogation—it was a fact that only myself and Detective Howell knew. According to the information presented by Ramon, Benny Wright didn’t exist—but he sure did to the Williams’ family.
The funeral for Trance Williams was held on October 23rd.
Understandably, Marvin was far from satisfied with the police position, as well as the obvious refusal to thoroughly investigate what the family knew was crime. He made numerous attempts shortly after the funeral to dig up additional information that might shed light on the murder of his brother. He had been advised by a city official who refused to go on record, that the Detroit Police Department was sensitive to a growing narcotics business in their city. That situation had led to a series of documented murders. As a consequence, the more incidences that The Department could categorize as killings unrelated to drugs, the better it would be for those rotten statistics that were speaking to a law enforcement system failing to confront a nasty infestation of undesirables.
Trance, however, had never used drugs. His family, as well as those friends that knew him intimately, were certain of it. Sure, he was a rapper, but his image was clean and true to the values of the mom and dad that raised him to follow—he loved to perform and create music, pure and simple. Thus, they wondered, what could the boy’s murder have to do with organized crime and narcotics?
Displeased with the potential drug angle, Marvin persisted by using his influence to press buttons at the Detroit Police Department’s headquarters, going so far as to be awarded a private hearing with the Chief of Police, a man named Randolph. He walked away with the same if-there-is-anything-we-come-up-with-we’ll-let-you-know story from the top man.
Certain that he was being stonewalled by the police, Marvin over the course of the next several days decided it would be best to spend some of his free millions of dollars looking into the matter independently. His resolve to do so wasn’t lessened after I contacted him to disclose that Trance had come to my home late the afternoon of his murder, that he was anxious and agitated, and that he had expressed concern for his safety.
I had known Trance’s family quite well for several years. When I first began tutoring him, he was only in his early teens. Then, after I retired from my own career in music, Marvin approached me. He explained that Trance had a connection with me and he asked if I’d be willing to mentor him, especially help shape his voice and his overall brand.
I agreed. The outcome was favorable to the extent that Marvin and the Williams’ family held me in high esteem. Thus, after I revealed for the first time that I had witnessed the shooting but never been contacted for a follow up interview by the police, Marvin went ballistic. Again, he requested to see The Chief. After being granted a second meeting, he came away certain that he was dealing with some sort of cover up—Randolph insisted that there was no report of a witness. He even called Detective Howell while Marvin sat in his office, listening as Howell responded dumbfounded at the assertion that a witness had been briefly interrogated at the scene of the murder.
It was after being rebuffed by Randolph that I talked again with Marvin. He explained what happened, advising me not to come forward. It was his thinking that until he had a handle on the reason for the obstruction of the investigation by Detroit P. D., I might become endangered if I formally reported to the police or media information that was contradictory to the official police position.
I did tell him about Trance’s last words, trying to convey something to me about papers. Still, I had nothing of substance to report regarding the nature of the documents that Trance was referring to. Marvin made a note of it. He then advised me to keep that point as well to myself until he and I spoke at a later date. That suited me just fine.
Here the story took a very curious twist that I would have never imagined. When I went through my period of despair several years earlier, creating havoc for my wife especially, there was another woman involved, Cookie Acosta. My relationship with her had always been pure business; she sang back up for me on numerous tracks I recorded and would appear with me in live gigs.
In terms of pure beauty, as well as raw sexuality and sensuality, Cookie was unrivaled. She had her baggage due to having been physically and sexually abused during her childhood, but her character had survived unblemished. It may have been that the trauma she endured early on built the foundation for the high ethical principles she strove to live by, as well as the determination and devotion she poured into whatever endeavor she was pursuing.
Her education had been limited by her having to drop out of high school to escape the horrors she faced living with the sadistic behavior of both her father and brother. Yet she later managed to complete her GED. She then started to take college courses—she was innately extremely bright and excelled in her studies once she was out from under the adversity of her birthplace.
A bit more history is necessary to explain how Cookie reentered this episode of my life, and what role she would play in the unraveling of the mystery of what happened to Trance Williams. Once the entire drama of my escapades three years earlier played out, and I had written a book about it, Simon had the bright idea of turning it into a musical. In fact, I participated in developing the book and songs for the piece. When I presented it to Simon, he was intrigued. He, in turn, showed it to a friend of his that ran a small non-equity theater in town. The director of the theater thought that the musical was worthy of a live production. He also came up with the idea of each role being filled by the real character. Thus, all of the principles became stage actors.
We had a blast. Jewel, my children, my ex-agent Garland, his secretary and best friend of Jewel, Georgia, my friends, Craig and Link, the owner of the saloon I visited from time to time, Jimbo, Cookie Acosta, and a few of the regulars from his bar, all shared in the experience. In fact, we were so enthused we decided to stick together as an amateur troop. We were able to put on a couple more shows during the ensuing months before…whatever happens that naturally brings non-remunerative activities to a halt.
Later, after our group disbanded, and because she wanted to continue on stage as a hobby, Cookie went on to play the role of a criminal investigator in a play entitled, Courtside. The production died a quick death, but the budding actress found her groove. That is, her act as a sleuth hit a cord for the lady because after the lights burning out on the play, Cookie was writing a new story into her life. It was to be Cookie Acosta with the title, Private Investigator, after her name.
All along, she had been amassing college credits with no specific matriculation in mind. Thus, when she began bundling the courses she had taken and then outlined with a counselor what she’d need for a degree in criminology, she realized she wasn’t that far from a real goal—it seems that her lust over the music industry tanked concomitant to me putting the same dream to bed.
It was only months before the murder of Trance, that Cookie completed her degree. She had earned the right to call herself a full-fledged private eye. While in school, she had struck up a tight relationship with one of her professors. This man had the rare power of vision to see that hidden inside perhaps one of the most alluring female anatomies on earth, was a talented and dedicated young woman who might serve a vital need in his business.
John O’Keefe was not only a full professor in criminology but he also headed his own small but esteemed private investigative service. There was one problem. O’Keefe had a remarkable fondness for alcohol. During the past of couple years, he recognized that his dedication to his business interests was waning and his reliability lessening. He realized that if he didn’t do something about the situation, he’d lose his prestige, and then his clientele.
The real issue, however, was that what most would have assumed to have been the “problem” for O’Keefe, alcoholism, was not. In his opinion, alcohol was a substance that offered a sure fix for any and all of life’s petty and not-so-petty disappointments and trials; his favorite brews were miracles of nature that made daily life a dream. Understandably, abstaining from alcohol would have been to his detriment. His concern was how to enjoy his substance of choice without guilt or shame, without the onus of having destroyed his career by neglect.
What this man needed was Cookie Acosta, a young lady who could service his clientele with a smile or a smirk, a snicker or a sneer, an enchanting and entrancing young woman that would make all the suspicious wives, cunning husbands, greedy businessmen or nasty politicians forget that John O’Keefe even existed. It was not his intent to abandon his following, only to graciously evaporate into the suffusing fragrance of Cookie Acosta.
Ah, but to drink without having to take responsibility for the untoward consequence in terms of business deterioration. What a vision, and it could come true if only… So he offered the fledgling investigator the opportunity of a lifetime. She could come to work in his office and learn from an experienced pro the ins and outs of the business, eventually having the whole filthy firm to herself. Cookie needed about one second to deliberate. In no time, she was working cases as if she’d been in practice for a decade.