There’s something fishy going on in the Cove this week Fletcherfans. Coach Kevin Cauldwell is finally retiring as coach of the Cabot Cove High football team, and so to celebrate Our Heroine is throwing him a retirement party, and to celebrate that one time Cabot Cove High won the thing in 1966 (I’m not entirely sure what. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s Aussie Rules football and Sports That Aren’t Aussie Rules football. This is most definitely in the latter category).
Before I continue, I’d just like to subtly point out something that caught my attention:
Before JB can get to Coach’s retirement party there’s a knock at her door. A man named Andrew Durbin, has come to collect the keys to JB’s pal Lila’s house which he’s renting for a few weeks. Before he drops her at the party he asks her where the sheriff’s office is, he has some paperwork to give him. MYSTERIOUS.
Meanwhile, all is not well with the Great and Glorious Team of ’66. Arnie Wakeman is in a wheelchair after a car accident, Dan Pulling is drunk all the time and has just been fired from the caryard fellow team member Bill Hampton (aka Dack Rambo) owns, and Judge Perry Sillman has just had Amos Tupper and Andrew Durbin in his office with some paperwork. MYSTERIOUS PAPERWORK OF DEATH, probably.
Oh no, just parole papers. At the coach’s party Judge Sillman tells JB that it turns out that Andrew Durbin has just been released from prison after serving 20 years for murder. Shady. Coach isn’t really up for reliving past glories and the party dies down pretty quickly. As they leave, Bill Hampton finds a cutout of a newspaper article from the Cabot Cove Gazette, a story about a businessman that died and the hitchhiker accused of his murder. His wife asks him why he looks so upset and he says it’s nothing, just someone’s idea of a practical joke. He gets in the car and drives off, but not before noticing the red corvette parked across the street.
SUBTLE PLOT POINTS ARE SUBTLE.
That night, Bill and his wife are woken by a phone call and a jack-in-the-box.
As the newspaper cuttings rain down around them, the red corvette drives past at a crawl. Bill’s wife Alison wants to call Amos but Bill says no, he’ll handle it himself.
The next morning Alison takes things into her own hands and goes to see JB for guidance. She tells JB the whole story, including the subject of the newspaper articles – businessman dead, hundreds of bearer bonds missing. She begs JB to talk to Bill and naturally she agrees, but she wants to do some research first.
That night, when Bill is driving home from the car lot, he is run off the road by – SURPRISE! A red corvette with one headlight! The next morning, Alison finds JB coming out of the offices of the Cabot Cove Gazette and tells her that she heard Bill tell someone he was killed by a red corvette, and now he’s carrying a gun. Who does he think he is, Rambo? Oh wait…
When JB goes to see Bill at the showroom he’s a bit flustered. Andrew Durbin has been in complaining of car trouble – his little red corvette only has one headlight working. He tells Bill the story about he bought the car from a little old woman whose husband was killed twenty years ago. OKAY, WE GET IT, DURBIN IS THE HITCHHIKER, JESUS. Bill tells Andrew that he will take a look at his car at nine o’clock that night. JB asks him what the connection is between him and Durbin, and Bill tells her to leave. After she’s gone, Bill calls someone and tells them that Durbin has been around, and to meet him at the caryard before 9 o’clock so they can end it, gun style.
JB and Amos confront Durbin, who freely admits to being the hitchhiker who was in the car with the businessman the night he died, and was later convicted of his murder. He tells them his version of events – that a car ran them off the road, turned around to come back towards them, he went to get help but couldn’t find any and when he returned to the car the business man was dead and the police were pulling up. JB asks him how Bill Hampton figures into all of this and Durbin tells her that while he was in prison he subscribed to the paper to work out who he saw that night – the passenger, not the driver, was Bill Hampton, wearing a white dinner jacket as it was prom night. JB correctly guesses that Durbin still hasn’t found out who the driver was, which is why he is messing with Bill, in order to smoke the mystery man out.
Amos has had enough of this, and tells Durbin to leave town before he’s arrested. Durbin correctly points out he hasn’t done anything yet, he’s just out for justice.
That night, at the scheduled meeting time, Bill Hampton is greeted by his co-conspirator and the click of a gun safety. The next morning, Bill turns up dead, an apparent suicide to everyone except JB as the bullet wound was on Bill’s right side and Bill was lefthanded. JB points out that a stranger might not have known Bill was left handed…
Cut to Durbin being asked for an alibi, and OH THE SURPRISES, he has an airtight one. JB asks him if he will be leaving town now but he’s got unfinished business with the driver of the car. JB then goes to see the judge and his wife, who are consoling Alison and are equally convinced Bill didn’t kill himself. Jess tells them her murder theory and asks them if they remember anything about the night of the prom and they all agree that they went to a diner after prom and had a wonderful time. LIARS!
Down on the docks Coach Cauldwell spots Andrew Durbin and punches him in the face. Jess takes him back to her place to calm down and asks him what he remembers about prom – it turns out he left early for the same reason JB did, the flu. Coach is convinced that none of his boys could be killers, but Jess remembers one of the boys having the nickname Animal. That was Dan, the raging alcoholic who doesn’t have two cents to rub together, so an unlikely holder of stolen bearer bonds. JB then considers Arnie, suing Bill for selling him a dodgy car that landed him in a wheelchair, who became unexpectedly wealthy after high school.
JB pays Arnie a visit, who is outraged when Jess asks him where he got his money from after highschool. He throws her out of the house, even after she helpfully brought in a special delivery letter from his insurance agency.
Eagle-eyed JB spotted scuff marks on the newly polished floorboards (that’s convenient) and so set a cunning trap using her phone bill as bait. Busted, JB escorts Arnie to Amos’s office, where he admits to setting up the dodgy insurance scam because he’d run out of money, but the money he had after high school was an inheritance. JB asks him about the prom and Arnie tells them that Bill was blind drunk that night, and that Alison abandoned him on the dance floor part way through the night. She left at about eleven o’clock, despite Bill trying to get her to stay. Amos gets a phone call placing Dan the Drunk in a drunk tank a couple of towns over, ruling him out as a suspect.
Jess confronts Perry, his wife and Alison about their prom night lie, and Alison comes clean. Bill was trying to get her to go to a hotel with him but she refused. She left early, but Bill went back to the prom, saying he had a trophy to collect. And therein lies the clincher for JB. Because the person he collected the trophy from was supposed to already have left.
Coach lied about leaving the prom to cover up the truth – he was driving a very drunk Bill home, and while Bill was trying to get Coach to take him to the diner where his friends were the car began to swerve all over the road and they hit the corvette. When he saw the bearer bonds on the backseat of the car he snapped, killed the driver and took half the bonds, giving the other half to Bill. That way he could have the football camp he always wanted, but it never got off the ground.
Well. That was…miserable. Better luck next time Fletcherfans!