St. Louis Hustle

It should have been a simple case. When sleek EMILY DAVIES begs ELVIN SUGGS to trail her philandering husband, NICK, it seemed like an easy request. Before long, Elvin and his friends, DIMOND “DI” REDDING and COBRA GLYNES, are entangled in a web of lethal deception. There is no escape.

The three Vietnam vets, now co-owners of Grapevine Investigations, agree to take Emily’s case. Di distrusts Emily, a nurse at St. Louis City Hospital. Soon, they are snooping around the Coral Courts Motel, a famous St. Louis “no tell motel.” The mousy desk clerk, WALDO E., knows his “regulars,” but he refuses to divulge his secrets.

Nick and his young lover, ANGEL CLEARY, are frequent guests. When Angel doesn’t arrive for a date, Nick is alarmed. He drives to her apartment, and almost hits a Mercedes driven by Angel’s landlord, OTTO PENNZEL.

Distraught, Nicks enters her apartment. He discovers her bludgeoned corpse, and his white shirt becomes soiled with her bloodstains. Sleazy landlord OTTO PENNZEL seizes his opportunity. He summons REGGIE COMBS, a St. Louis police detective, and launches a murder investigation. Nick becomes a suspect.

Emily begins an affair with LEON MORGAN, a married plastic surgeon. ROSA, a nosy motel maid, is mysteriously smothered in their room at the Coral Courts. FLORENCE PODOWSKY, the Davies’ babysitter, suspects Emily. She alerts her drinking buddy, MAISY, and soon, Maisy is found dead in a bathtub.

Elvin suspects Waldo E. of foul play, but Waldo is a victim. Through Waldo, Elvin learns of Pennzel’s sordid past, a tale that is rich with indiscretions and accusations. Pennzel also owns a significant portion of the city’s properties. “Otto gets what he wants…or else,” Waldo says. “Blackmail is his friend.”

Though Nick appears to be the murderer, Reggie isn’t convinced. Frustrated by the swirling rumors, and eager to snatch the “word on the street,” he collaborates with Elvin, Di and Parry to find the killer. Disappointed by Cobra’s drug relapse, Di and Elvin ask Cobra to move out. He moves in with his new girlfriend, VALERIE GAINS, a Marilyn Monroe impersonator.

When the group finally descends on the Coral Court Motel, chaos ensues. Nick encounters Valerie by mistake, and Emily overdoses on painkillers in the bathroom of a bungalow she shared with Dr. Morgan. Elvin, Di, Parry and Reggie discover that a despondent and guilt-ridden Waldo E. has committed suicide. Otto Pennzel is waiting, with a gun. He is desperate to conceal his notorious past and sordid present. Angel, Rosa and Maisy threatened to expose the real Otto Pennzel, and Otto murdered all of them. He is about to kill Di when Reggie corners him. Reggie is not alone.

Otto is no match for Cobra, a former Marine sniper. Cobra shoots Pennzel, and he dies. A grateful Elvin and Di ask Cobra to move back home.

Otto can check out, but he can never leave. Without Pennzel, the Coral Court Motel is an orphan, destined to be abandoned. Like its former owner, its past remains notorious—and immortal.


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