On the road and with a hankerin’ to gamble, Our Heroine stops over in a mysterious part of California to watch her jockey niece Tracey try and claim her first victory on the track. (Is anyone else ridiculously happy that JB’s niece is a jockey? Grady is seriously letting the team down with his general crapness). JB’s taxi driver tells her that Tracey’s ride is a nag (and we should always take advice from taxi drivers, especially ones that try and sell you drugs on the way home not that that happened to me), but after the regular jockey for stable favourite Anchors Ahoy falls ill, Tracey is promoted.
The trainerof Anchors Ahoy, Jack Bowen, offers his private box for Jess to watch the big race. American horse races don’t seem to be like Australian horse races – there’s no one fascinator in sight, there’s only 40,000 people there, not 110,000, everyone looks sober, and noone is smuggling casks of wine through the gate disguised as casks of water not that I’ve done that. In the box she meets Cliff and Christine Carpenter, who have a system for gambling so scientific it’s like Nate Silver devised them himself – greys never win on weekdays (Life Lesson #37) and winners come in threes, gate 6 has already produced two winners, so clearly the horse in gate 6 will win today!
That other woman is Vicky, the wife of Carlos the jockey who had to be taken to hospital. She decides to back Frost Boy, but about thirty seconds after she goes to back it the horse is scratched. I think we’ve all been there. There’s a lot of interest in Anchor’s Ahoy at 20-1, especially from the local Mafia representative Vince Shackman, who tries to suss out why there is so much money on an outsider. Even the horse’s vet Mike Gann has dropped a lazy twenty g’s on the race.
After all the bets are in, the race is run and won – by Tracey, naturally. Our Heroine loses her shit and starts ordering champagne by the boatload but before she can pop her cork one of the stablehands runs past in a tizz. Jack Bowen has just turned up in the stall with a tranquillizer dart sticking out of him. The 5-0 arrive led by Lt Misko who promptly dismisses JB’s theories and sends her on her way. Our Heroine has no time to dwell on this however – Tracey is being escorted to the stewards office under suspicion of race fixing. She ends up being suspended, despite all the post-race tests showing that Anchor’s Ahoy wasn’t drugged (unlike the Essendon Football Club. BOOM).
Despite all this, Tracey still thinks something weird is going on. Before the race Jack Bowen gave her contradictory instructions about how to ride the race, and was staggered when these instructions actually worked. JB has a quiet word with Cookie the stablehand, who tells her that Vince Shackman had an interest in the race, and had been to see Mike Bowen before the race began. She then quizzes Carlos and Vicky about what they think happened. Carlos tells her that it was impossible for the horses to be switched, their lip tattoos matched. Mind you, they also think Tracey had something to with it, so obviously they can’t be trusted.
Trying to see for herself, and using a carrot as an investigative tool, JB tries to establish whether the horses could have been switched, but the lip tattoo is a match.
After the Great Carrot Failure, Jess tests another theory – that Carlos wasn’t really sick, and that he had time to run across the paddock and kill Bowen before anyone knew he was out of bed. That falls flat when the infirmary nurse informs Our Heroine that Carlos was full of drugs and not able to get out of bed, let alone across the paddoclk. About to give up and go back to the hotel she gets into her taxi, followed by two hired goons who tell her they’re off to an early lunch with Vince Shackman. Shackman is eager to learn how Tracey fixed the race – he has some people in Vegas who are more than a little unhappy about losing so much money on a race that was so obviously fixed. JB tells him that she can’t help him, but then Shackman gets a call – Tracey has been brought in for questioning over the murder of Jack Bowen.
Fed up with Misko’s failure at life (and telling him so to his face), JB goes out to Jack Bowen’s stables to hunt for more clues. She spots Anchor’s Ahoy…the real Anchor’s Ahoy, not the fake one at the track who won the race. Mike Gann turns up with a shotgun and a bad temper – he was in on the racefixing scam along with Jack Bowen and Carlos the jockey, but he didn’t kill Bowen and he’s not going to jail for the scam either. Instead of shooting JB he decides to let loose the psychopath horse to trample her to death (every stable has a horse who hates people, this is scientific fact), but fortunately Misko and his Merry Men arrive in the nick of time.
On the way back to town, JB has a convenient brainwave. She knows who the killer is (which is handy, since there’s only five minutes left).
Vicky killed Jack Bowen because reasons. I’ll be honest, I’ve been sitting here for the last twenty minutes saying “CARROT YOU HAVE DISPLEASED ME” and laughing to myself.
And on that horrifyingly true story: