Monkey See, Monkey Murder by Jack Bates

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Hack Ward thought he had found a niche market for his skills as a private investigator when Hollywood came to Detroit. When washed up director Will Peyton gets pegged to direct a low-brow family comedy starring a chimp and a perpetual bad-girl pop star, Hack gets brought in by Peyton to keep an eye on starlet Haley Goslin. It’s not because Peyton is concerned about her image; it’s because Peyton is in love with the younger woman and doesn’t want her fooling around on him.

It isn’t long, however, before events on the set start turning sinister. Hack is on hand the day the chimp has a psychotic episode and attacks Haley. Saving her life sets off a chain of events that bring Hack and Haley closer together and puts them in more and more danger. On the morning she gets called into the set to shoot some additional footage, they have no idea they are getting called into a trap.

When it comes to murder, which is the more dangerous animal? Chimp ... or man?


I arrived on the set of Motor City Monkey right about the time Will Peyton, the director, was having a meltdown. The tabloids billed the production as a return to the family movie, but the language coming out of the director’s mouth was a darker shade of blue. From what I caught during his tirade, he was upset with the former teenage songbird whose most recent notoriety dealt more with what she did off screen than on. At that moment, she was having difficulty relating to the chimpanzee sitting in the driver’s seat of a race car.

The tension around the soundstage stemmed from a weak high-concept script. High concept is a term Hollywood types throw around for when their girlfriends has an idea that a team of scriptwriters, producers, and marketing gurus try to mash into a viable project. The high concept for Motor City Monkey? A gifted chimpanzee races in the NASCAR circuit for a well known family of drivers who have hit a few too many potholes in life.

It seemed like a solid project. Anyone catching the release would recognize the chimpanzee from a series of commercials for a cruise line. It’s the one where the hapless human oaf takes his family aboard a ship over run with chimps. The last bit of it shows Butch, the chimp, in a skimpy bathing suit, sipping an umbrella drink as the voice over guy warns the would-be travelers not to “monkey around with your family’s vacation.”

Haley Goslin, the twenty year old chanteuse whose big hit included that song about girls and lollipops, freaked out every time the chimp pulled its lips back and looked at her. I did have to agree. From where I stood, the chimp was far from the image of the docile primate enjoying a cocktail on a sundeck.

“I’ve seen When Wild Pets Attack, Peyton,” Haley said. Her southern twang echoed around the makeshift soundstage in an abandoned Detroit warehouse. “I know what these demons can do to a person. They rip out your eyes and bite off your fingers. No thank you.”

“Haley, you’re being ridiculous,” Peyton said. Once upon a time he had a long, decorated career, at least by Hollywood standards. By forty, he was deep in debt because he was deep in cocaine and on his third or fourth divorce. Motor City Monkey was supposed to be his way out of the toilet.

Haley’s mullet-haired old man jumped into the discussion. “Now you just hold on, buddy,” Daddy Goslin said. “I’ve seen those TV shows, too. I don’t want nothin’ happening to my Haley.” Goslin marched over to his daughter and put an arm around her shoulders. Haley shrugged it off, taking a step away from him.

“Go sit down, daddy,” she said. She turned to Peyton. “Where is that thing’s handler?”

“I’m right here, Miss Goslin,” a man said.

Standing in a partially raised lift was a man in beige coveralls, the kind with the oval name patch on them. His said Al. There was a .22 caliber, bolt action rifle slung over Al’s shoulder. Behind him was another man in a hard hat and orange vest whose only job was to raise or lower the cart on its accordion arms. A plus size black woman stood next to the trainer. She also wore a hard hat that barely fit over her tightly wound dreadlocks.

“You ready to shoot this thing if it goes after me?” Haley asked.

“It’s why I have the rifle,” Al said. The woman next to him turned her attention to the gun handler. She started to say something but was cut off.

“I got my pearl-handled pistols out in my truck,” Daddy Goslin said. “Maybe I’d better go get them.”

Again, the woman next to the handler opened her mouth to speak.

“Stop!” Peyton’s voice cut through the absurdity. “Everyone just calm down.” He looked up at Al the trainer. “Al, has there ever been any problem with Butch?”

“None that I know of, Mr. Peyton.” Al said. “He’s as gentle as a baby.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not wild about babies, either,” Haley said.

Peyton eyed the cast and crew. “Look. All we have to do is get this shot and we can wrap for the day. Just hug the frickin’ monkey and we’re out of here, okay?” Peyton stared directly at Haley.

“You can do it, pumkin,” Daddy Goslin said. I wasn’t sure if he purposely missed the “p” in pumpkin or if the chew in his lower lip obstructed the plosive consonant. Twenty years before, Daddy Goslin had a boot-scootin’, rock-a-billy tune, something about “a froggin’ in the bog again”. Made him big and rich and big and famous. Now, he was riding the plaid shirttails of his lil’ ol’ pumkin.

“Quiet!” It was Peyton again. He turned around and made eye contact with me. He looked a little relieved to see me but held up a finger letting me know it wasn’t the time to approach him. I nodded and stepped off to the side of the set knowing I needed not to be seen.

Motor City Monkey wasn’t my first job since Hollywood came to Detroit. I had been hired on as a consultant for an episode of a short-lived cop show shot in the Motor City, and I had been hired to keep an eye on an A-lister filming with Clint Eastwood. The guy had a string of hits in the 90s, liked to spend long nights at the local casinos, and had a habit of showing up late or not at all the next morning. For the two weeks I was on the job, I made sure he did.

Peyton had heard of my work and contacted me to make sure Haley Goslin stayed low and stayed clean. At twenty, she’d already been on the internet for drunk-sexting to any fan that tweeted her. Desperate to shake the little girl image created for her by the suits and skirts of a noted, youth-oriented cable network, Haley Goslin was putting it out there.


  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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