After the shenanigans last week – demon car of doom and so on – no one can blame JB for taking a little time away from the Cove. That’s why this week we find Jess in Chicago fixing Joaquin Phoenix’s bike.

Remember that time Joaquin Phoenix went nuts, but it turned out it wasn’t nuts it was art for Casey Affleck’s documentary? Good times.

Fun fact: the little girl in the red hat is Summer Phoenix, who married Casey Affleck, who made Joaquin go nuts for his documentary. Ain’t families great?

Jess’s niece offers to have Jess stay a few more days – presumably she’s got a boatload of things that need fixing, but Jess declines with Life Lesson #22  – “House guests are like Halley’s Comet: enjoyed seldom, and briefly.” Before they can get into a slapdown argument about this, a car pulls up and Michael Gardener appears. He’s a man on a mission – his boss, Horatio Baldwin would like a little chat with her.  This is enough to blow little Joaquin’s fragile little mind…

Little did the boy known as Rain Phoenix know he would one day grow up to be Johnny Cash…

Horrible Horatio, as he is also known, is a purveyor of theme parks, and would like Jess to come check out his latest endeavour – Horatio’s House of Horrors. Jess tries to say no but is talked down by those meddling kids, so off they trot to check it out. They hang out with the local press pack and watch on as Horatio dresses up as a monk and pretends to be hanged. Good clean family fun. Afterwards, he meets with Jess to discuss his latest idea but is constantly interrupted by his employees picking fights with him. Jess asks him to get on with it, and Horatio replies “Mrs Fletcher please! Allow me the seduction before you cry rape!”

I’m not kidding.

Jess decides to overlook that comment, and spends some time hanging out with his secretary instead, much to Horrible Horatio’s annoyance. When he finally tells her his idea – a theme park for kids based on the books of JB Fletcher – Jess shoots him down immediately. For kids? That’s ridiculous.

Baldwin: “Who do you think pays to see this stuff? Don’t you go to the movies?

JB: “When Cary Grant bowed out, so did I.”

Horatio is apoplectic, but JB just smiles demurely and excuses herself. The Horrible One presses a magic button on his desk, and locks the door, saying he’s not used to being refused. Jess turns into the incredible Hulk, and Horatio backs down.

JB Fletcher – getting all teacher on your arse.

Later that night, one of Horatio’s minions is out saving the universe getting coffee, when he hears a gun go off. Startled into action, he gets his sidekick and goes to investigate Baldwin’s office, but it’s locked from the inside. Confused, they ring up the only other person on site – Philip Carlson, right hand of the Horrible One –  for assistance and he helpfully advises them to break down the door. Inside, Horrible Horatio hath shuffled off his mortal coil, with the aid of a gun. They go in for a closer look, joined by Philip Carlson who has turned up for a stickleback.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Jess is flipping burgers and correcting Joaquin’s grammar when her nephew-in-law, who just so happens to be a detective, gets a phone call. The Horrible One has killed himself. Jess calls shenanigans, and they troop off back to Horatio’s House of Mysterious Deaths for a closer look. The captain reveals that it certainly wasn’t suicide, it was the perfect murder. He gives JB a sly glance and asks her what her thoughts were on the case. She cheerfully declares she hasn’t a clue.

The end. Kidding.

The next morning on her run, Jess discovers that the police are convinced that the secretary did it. (And lets face it, it’s not a bad assumption.) Curiosity gets the better of her, and she makes plans to take a later flight and return back the same day. Can’t be trusting these local police, even if your niece married one. Back at Horatio’s House of Fun Jess has a chat with Philip Carlson, who still doesn’t believe that the Horrible One was murdered, despite the number of people who wanted him dead. Jess hasn’t got time to dwell on this though, she’s got a plane to catch..

At the airport Jess tries valiantly to catch her flight to Kansas City, but is waylaid by Michael Gardener, who has a gun and some questions, and isn’t afraid to use either of them.

“I’ll go with you,” says our heroine, “not because you’re holding a gun on me, but because my curiosity is aroused.”


He escorts Jess to a private jet, where the recently widowed (for the fourth time) Mrs Horatio Baldwin is waiting. Mrs Baldwin asks Jess if it would surprise her to learn that Mrs B loved Mr B very much.

JB’s response is obvious.

A picture paints a thousand words. (I only painted one).

Mrs B reveals that she and Mr Gardener have been making merry behind Horrible Horatio’s back. Jess doesn’t care. If they want her to stop stickybeaking, they’re out of luck. Au contraire, say the lovers. They want JB to prove he was murdered. Ain’t no life insurance policy payout if Horrible H really did take himself off the perch. Mrs B offers a reward of $100,000,000, and JB tells her to stick it. (I’m paraphrasing a bit here).

Later that night JB returns to her family in Chicago. Laurie the secretary has turned up, and needs our heroine’s help. It turns out that Horrible Horatio was blackmailing her, and everyone else who worked for the Horrible One.  Jess and Bert return to the land of Horatio to try to find the dirt, but someone has beaten them to it.

That someone, it turns out, is not one of Horatio’s minions/accountant, who has saved up all his money and is trying to leg it to Mexico but falls at the last hurdle.


At the police station he swears that he didn’t kill anyone, he was just a panicked embezzler who got told to run for it or the police would be after him. Detective Donavan and JB decide he’s too pathetic to be a killer and let him go home to feed his cat. (I’ll be honest, I awwwwed a bit at that). Jess has bigger fish to fry – she knows who was doing Baldwin’s blackmailing. And Baldwin’s wife.

Alas, before anyone can speak to Michael Gardiner about this, a ninja throws him off the balcony. Awkward.

Back to the drawing board, Jess returns to Baldwin’s office to have a think. Inspiration strikes when she gets a phone call from Detective Donavan. She lays a trap in the House of Horrors, and sure enough, the killer is dumb enough to fall into it. A fake microfilm, a strategically placed mirror and BOOM.

Brought down by that new-fangled technology known as call forwarding. Who’da thunk it?

Like the true lady that she is, she lets her nephew-in-law take the credit and explain to his boss how Philip Carlson had ninja skills. Jess gives the cheque she received from Erica Baldwin to Horrible Horatio’s secretary, who promptly freaks out. Job well done, it’s back to the Cove for Jess. God knows what the sheriff has been up to while she’s been gone…