The Case of the Dancing Stud (Part 4 of 4): The Big Competition
Part IV: The Big Competition
I was standing on the sidelines at the International Lindy Hop Championships, with only twenty minutes left until the big event. And Shackelford was nowhere to be found.
“I know it’s not your fault, Dr. Wilfred, but I can’t help feeling disappointed in Shackelford Withersbottom,” Ms. Gilkenson said. “We had all our hopes on him finding Chester.”
“There, There,” I said, patting her hand. “I’m sure he has a plan.” Though to be honest, reader, it was hard to believe myself. It seemed we had run out of time. Meanwhile, a large man had moved directly in front of me, and I couldn’t see the contest floor. I tapped him on the shoulder to ask him to move, and the man giggled, throwing off a fake mustache and overabundant coat jacket to reveal my thin friend.
“My Dear Dr. Wilfred!” he replied.
“Detective, please tell me you found him!” Ms. Gilkenson said.
“Kind woman, please do not excite yourself,” he said. “He is here, putting on his number, I believe.” He pointed to a rather scruffy man with a beret and an old moth-eaten suit I could smell from where I stood.
“Next to the homeless guy? Wait, what? That can’t be Chester.” Ms. Gilkenson said.
“Dear lady, trust me. If you were to shave and bath him you would find he is none other than one Chester Franklin, ready to do right by his partner Cora Glass, if she will still have him.”
“Go get Cora immediately!” Ms. Gilkenson said to a nearby event volunteer. “But Mr. Withersbottom, who kidnapped him?”
“As I suspected, no one!”
“No one! Then it was all a bizarre accident?”
“I didn’t say someone didn’t try to do him harm, Ms. Gilkenson. Thankfully for us, however, the criminal was not able to.”
She fell back onto a seat, trying to catch her breath. “Tell me all, Detective Withersbottom.”
“Where to begin? My suspicions were first aroused when I could find no trace of footprints left behind by the disappeared Southern California Dancer–the kidnap suspect. This wasn’t a large deal in itself, as many dancers wear the same shoes. But, when you said the words ‘It was as if the Southern California dancer didn’t even exist’, it all started to come together, slowly. You see, madam, he doesn’t exist.”
“But he stayed in my house! We all saw him.”
“And did he not have the same height, body, and facial profile, perhaps, as Chester’s best friend, George Smith?”
A shock of horror slowly came over her face.
“Yes, George Smith disguised himself as a Southern California dancer. He added a fake beard, a neckerchief, and a hat.”
“But how come we didn’t recognize him?”
“George is a dancer and has great control over his body–he changed his walk, his posture, his gait–everything. I have since discovered he also had much theater experience in college, which would have allowed him to change his voice, act differently, and use spirit gum deftly.”
“But what happened the night Chester disappeared? Who gave George a concussion?”
“Why, madam, Chester did.”
Yet another wave of shock came over the poor girl.
“Do not worry; he did not do it on purpose. It was all a grand–but devilishly ironic–coincidence. You do recall, Ms Gilkenson, that Chester had been known to practice for hours and then fall onto his bed, clothes, shoes and all, and eventually fall asleep that way? And do you also recall, how he had practiced his new aerial so much he could do it in his sleep?”
“Picture the scene I put before you, then–George enters Chester’s room late at night, to do some dark bidding. Perhaps he was going to kidnap Chester, as you say, or perhaps something worse–perhaps he was going to do something to Chester. To his heel, his shoes, or something to sabotage the next practice, and put Chester out of the race for ILHC champion, blaming it all on his Southern California alter ego.”
“But why, why would George do something like that? George is Chester’s best friend!”
“You see, far from being Chester’s friend, George was his greatest enemy, ever since Chester accidentally kicked him in the heel while dancing a few months ago. As you know, the injury ruined George’s chances at the ILHC championship this year. George wanted things to be equal. He came into George’s room that night to tamper in some way with Chester’s foot or shoe, when suddenly, Chester does something in his sleep–the new aerial, or a dance step of some sort, perhaps–and kicks George square in the forehead.”
“Yes, yes, it could have easily been a shoe heel that caused George’s concussion!” I said.
Ms. Gilkenson looked agog. “Well, that answers what happened to George and the mysterious Southern California dancer, but what happened to Chester?”
“Well, that turned out to be the easiest part of the case to solve. Tell me, Ms. Gilkenson, I’m a lover of jazz music who needs to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the modern world and am no stranger to opiates. Where should I go?”
“New Orleans.” She answered, and, having heard her answer, suddenly brought her hand to her mouth. “Oh, no!”
A somber Shackelford Withersbottom responded. “When I found him, he had been playing guitar for seven days straight. But to him, it seemed only five or six hours. I explained he was about to lose his partner because of his absent mindedness, and he rushed back to get here in time for the competition. You see, the night he disappeared, he had received a phone call in the middle of the night to come to New Orleans immediately in order to relax before the big weekend. In the darkness, Chester left and didn’t even notice George, lying there on the floor.”
“And I bet I know who made that call,” Ms. Gilkenson said, and turned towards the storm clouds gathering outside the near window, a tear falling down her cheek. “Damn you, Andy Reid.”
“Do not hold a grudge against him, Ms. Gilkenson, he only meant to help.”
“Well, I guess that’s about everything. How can I ever repay you, detective?”
At this moment, the volunteer sent to fetch Cora returned, out of breath and hysterical. “Ms. Gilkenson, Ms. Gilkenson, it’s Cora! Someone kicked her–her heel–she can’t dance on it! She can’t compete!”
“Someone has injured Cora’s heel?” Ms. Gilkenson said. “What are the odds!?”
Shackelford tapped his cane on the floor anxiously. “Ms. Gilkenson, you haven’t, by any chance, seen if our friend George has awakened from his coma recently, have you?”
“No, I’ve been too busy working here at the event! Is it possible!?!”
“I’m afraid so.”
“If Cora’s hurt than who’s Chester going to dance with?” Ms. Gilkenson was out of her chair, grabbing the volunteer by the lapels. “They just have to! They’re too inspirational! They have to be seen! They’re the spirit of Lindy Hop!”
“Don’t worry for one instance, Ms. Gilkenson,” Shackelford said. “I’ll get my skirt.”
Why is this comical work of swing dance fiction deemed an ILHC mystery? Because the story was written with the goal of bringing notice, both literally and…well, literally, to the tone and overall spirit of the International Lindy Hop Championships competition weekend. Hopefully the story was a fun and entertaining frolic complete with sincere appreciation for the complexities of Lindy Hop and the swing dance community–all things ILHC strives for.
The Case of the Dancing Stud was loosely based on the Sherlock Holmes short story “Silver Blaze” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Specifically, the character of Shackelford Withersbottom was based on the actor Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the Granada television series, whose embodiment of the role is incredible. Like, Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski incredible. Thanks to Aba Browning for introducing me to the series.