Hayden Konig, Police Chief of Germaine, NC, solves the murder of Brother Jimmy Kilroy, Pastor of the New Fellowship Baptist Church, for which Kokomo, the world famous signing gorilla, is the only suspect. In The Bass Wore Scales [ISBN 0-972-1211-8-8], Hayden Konig, Police Chief of St. Germaine, NC, mentors Ardine McCullough's three children, returns to Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church as Organist/Choir Director, solves the murder of Brother Jimmy Kilroy, Pastor of the New Fellowship Baptist Church, and wins, in his category, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for the worst opening line in a novel.
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The members of Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church are upset. Junior Jameson's racecar is not winning. In fact, it is always at back of the pack. A few months ago, after Saint Barnabas got a $16 million windfall, they decided to use the money to sponsor Junior's racecar team, that is, Lucille Murdock, Junior's aunt, decided. The congregation voted to let her decide because she had given more money to the church over the years [$1.2 million], than anyone else. She says “…isn't NASCAR racing the number one spectator sport in the country? And don't those people need to be exposed to the Gospel?” [And, by the way, which she does not say, doesn't Junior need a sponsor?] The congregation feels that many people would be brought to the Lord if they saw their beautiful purple car with the Saint Barnabas shield on the hood, a huge gold cross on the roof, Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church, on the doors . So it's a problem that Junior is not winning. What to do? They decide to have a special service, “The Blessing of the Racecar”. Bishop O'Connor says he will officiate, especially after he finds out about the media coverage: two TV stations from Charlotte; at least five newspapers; a crew from ESPN; and the NPR station from Nashville. Even though the bishop arrives 50 minutes late, at 2:50 pm, the service starts promptly at 3. That's a good thing because the clock at the top of the courthouse always says 3. [It stopped working 30 years ago.] The church bell rings, the doors open, the procession starts: two acolytes; Benny Dawkins swinging the thurible; Bishop O'Connell; church members wearing cassocks; Billy Hixon [the senior warden]; and, finally, Lucille Murdock and Junior Jameson. Two hundred people are watching. Benny walks around the car with the thurible, directing incense inside and outside, the bishop and the people pray. Finally, the bishop blesses the car, flinging holy water inside and out, using a small branch from a sweet olive tree growing near the church. As the service ends Junior joins the Bishop O'Connell and says “Let's put the rest of that Holy Water in the radiator.” The bishop hesitates, but does it. After all, all the news crews are watching! A few days later, Junior finishes eighth – the first time in his life in the top ten! Junior is so excited that he asks for another blessing, which he gets. He finishes first in the next race!
Ardine McCullough, whose husband, Pee-Dee, “disappeared” seven years ago, has three children. Although Hayden mentors them all -- the oldest, Bud [a teenage wine expert], and the middle child, Pauli-Girl [as beautiful as Ardine probably was when she was young -- he spends the most time with the youngest, an eight-year old boy named Moosey. Hayden promised, in February, that he would take Moosey fishing; it is now June, and Moosey hasn't forgotten.
A friend of Pete's [Pete Moss, the Mayor of St. Germaine, NC, and owner of The Slab, where Hayden and his friends eat] is in town. He's known her since she was “…a hot doctoral student at the University of Maryland.” She's now Penelope Pelicane, Ph.D., and is in charge of the Gorilla Project on Interspecies Communication. She's touring with her gorilla, Kokomo, who communicates in sign language. The crowd at The Slab wants to meet Kokomo, and several of them invite friends [including Brother Jimmy Kilroy, Pastor of the New Fellowship Baptist Church], so 14 people walk into the science building. Kokomo is 480 pounds, about 21 years old, has a vocabulary of over 1,000 words, can understand 2,000 words of spoken English, has an IQ between 70 and 90, and communicates using American Sign Language. According to Dr. Pelicane, he sometimes mixes up words and, other times, he lies on purpose. When they ask him questions, Kokomo says ”Kokomo like bananas” to Moosey, “Candy give me” to Pete, “Tiger” to Noylene [his kitten's name], and “…don't like no little trees” when Pete asks how he thinks our President is doing. [Kokomo doesn't know the word for “bush”.] The big question comes from Noylene: “Will you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour?” Kokomo says “Yes, Kokomo love hugs.” This last question starts all sorts of problems.
Hayden gets two telephone calls a few minutes apart.
Dr. Pelicane is hysterical: “Kokomo is gone! Stolen! By that minister you guys brought over!”
Bootsie Watkins, secretary at the New Fellowship Baptist Church, is wringing her hands. She's been at the church since 8 am, as has been Bennett Shipley, the Head Deacon. Bennet has an appointment with Brother Kilroy, but they don't see Brother Kilroy, the door to his office is locked [apparently from the inside, and there's only one key], and sounds of crashing and some kind of shrieking come from the inside.
Bennett Shipley breaks the stained glass window in the door and takes the key from the inside of the lock. Hayden and the others enter. The room is in shambles, with broken furniture all over the place. When they enter the private bathroom, they find Brother Kilroy face down in brownish water in the tub, and Kokomo sitting on the toilet bowl. Brother Kilroy's neck is broken. Kokomo is the main, that is, the only suspect! Brother Kilroy thought Kokomo should be baptized, since he said he would accept Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior.
Mona Kilroy, Bro. Jimmy's wife, insists that Kokomo be destroyed. Dr. Pellicane is distraught. After several court orders, and stays, Kent Murphee, the coroner, says that Brother Kilroy was killed by being hit on the head with an iron pipe, two inches in diameter. He finds traces of rust deep in the wound and the x-ray shows an indentation in the skull. He doesn't think Kokomo did it.
Hayden gets it. The murderer is Bennett Shipley. Bennett was having an affair with Bootsie Watkins. Since he is the Head Deacon, he has to confess every week to Brother Kilroy. When he confesses the affair, even though he says it's over, Brother Kilroy says he has to confess to the entire congregation. Bennett Shipley does not want to do that [if nothing else, he doesn't want his wife to find out], so he kills Brother Kilroy.
Kokomo is set free.
Junior Jameson gets yet another blessing, and comes in first once again. However, during his victory lap, he tries some fancy stuff, crashes into the wall, and dies. He is buried in his car.
Hayden and Moosey go fishing several times but catch nothing. They're trying for “the big catch” – Old Spiney – a huge, crafty, striped bass who's eluded local fishing folk for years. Finally, they get him, but not in the usual way. When he tries to jump over the boat, Moosey throws his hands up, hitting Old Spiney on the nose, and the fish falls into the boat. Hayden removes the five hooks in his mouth and Moosey decides to let him go!
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked this story because it was humorous, fast paced, and understandable,.
Best scene in story:
In my favorite scene, Hayden and Moosey finally land “Old Spiney”, the huge [21 pound, 10 oz], canny, bass that has been eluding Germaine fishing folk for years, although they don't land him in the normal way. Old Spiney jumps out of the water and is about to jump over the boat when Moosey lets out a yell and throws his arms up, hitting Old Spiney in the nose. Old Spiny falls into the bottom of the boat. Although Moosey wanted to catch the fish in the worst way, he decides to let him go.
Opinion about the main character:
Two of the things I like most about Hayden Konig are his kindness and compassion. He is very supportive of the three McCullough children: Bud, Pauli Girl, and Moosey. When he and Moosey finally land the huge bass, Old Spiney there are five hooks stuck in his mouth. Moosey says “They must hurt him.” Hayden removes the hooks.