The Wrong Side of Memphis
Life is absurd.
Post-war life is absurd and bizarre – a harsh lesson learned by Vietnam vet ELVIN SUGGS. Eager to resume his life with his wife, petite blonde CHERIE, and his Airedale Terrier SAVANNAH, his hopes are dashed when Cherie demands a divorce. With no future remaining in Memphis, he searches for DIMOND REDDING, the widow of Don, his best friend in ‘nam.
Now a fifty-five year old widow, DI is struggling to build a new life in St. Louis, Missouri. As an ex-Army nurse, she now has a job at the People’s Hospital and an apartment at the Jewel Arms, located in an aging south city neighborhood. Before long, a gruesome murder outside her door challenges her decision.
MATTHEW TORREZ, a prominent, yet shy businessman is stabbed following his daily visit with another tenant, VALERIE GAINS, an aspiring actress and full-time party girl. In his briefcase, police discover an assortment of gold and diamond jewelry. In his coat pocket, is a five carat diamond ring. Why was TORREZ carrying so much jewelry, and why didn’t the killer snag it?
Disillusioned and distraught, DI questions her move to St. Louis. Was this the best place for her? A ghost from her past answers her dilemma in the form of TASHA WEEKS, another first floor tenant. She produces letters from her brother ANTOINE WEEKS, written by DI during his time in a military hospital in Vietnam, and begs for DI’s assistance.
It seems that Detective RICK VALENTINO has arrested her friend PARRISH (Parry) LEACH, in the death of Matthew Torrez. Leach, fresh out of jail and on parole, was at the Jewel Arms at the time of the murder. Tasha insists he was caring for her after her eye surgery, though she couldn’t vouch for the accuracy of anything she might have seen. As a favor to her deceased brother, she asks, can Di help them prove Parry’s innocence?
Di is reluctant to get involved. Elvin, however, has become a private investigator, and has just arrived in St. Louis. In memory of Antoine, he insists that they help Tasha Weeks. They promise to help clear Parry’s record, thereby plunging themselves into lethal consequences with the silent owner of the Jewel Arms – Cherie’s new boyfriend, the greedy WALTER HUBBLE. In a fateful strategy, he has placed the building in Cherie’s name as a ruse, and is using it for his drug-trafficking activities.
Hubble and his slovenly brother Arnold, become concerned when Cherie and Elvin appear to reconcile. If Cherie tells Elvin about their drug empire, the cash flow will evaporate – unthinkable! Thus, Cherie’s murder becomes an overnight reality, as well as the death of Tasha Weeks.
Depressed and lonely, Elvin cruises the streets of St. Louis one frigid night, and encounters a homeless vet huddled in the darkness. To his delight, he has discovered St. Louis native COBRA GLYNES, a former Marine sniper who once saved his life. Elvin picks him up and invites him to share his apartment at the Jewel Arms. Cobra accepts – no questions asked.
Another tenant, Belle Torrez, mourns the loss of her son. Without Mattie, she must rely on ROSE HONEYCUTT, her diabolical nurse. An ex-con herself, Rose has had several aliases. Her nursing license was revoked years ago, forcing her to work “incognito.” Through the years, she has stolen cash and jewelry by overmedicating her patients to the point of unconsciousness. While working at the Jewel Arms, she also murders Edmund Mars and Annie Silver, two other tenants.
Matthew had grown wise to her tricks and had taken the jewelry stash for safekeeping, with the exception of the five-carat diamond ring. It was intended for Valerie, but he’d never had the nerve to propose to her; it had remained in his coat pocket. Police want to return the jewelry to Belle’s, but at Valerie’s urging, it is entrusted to Di.
Walter and Arnold are alarmed that Elvin and Cobra are living at the Jewel Arms and intend to kill them. Though they manage to overpower them, Cobra has a panic attack and sets fire to the building. Di grabs the jewelry and escapes before the explosion. The Jewel Arms, together with its treasures and secrets, are destroyed forever.
In the end, Parry Leach is a free man. Now officially homeless, Di, Elvin and Cobra also strapped for cash, decide to sell the jewelry in exchange for a downpayment.
Cash in hand, the three vets decide to remain in St. Louis and follow Elvin’s lifelong dream: to open a detective agency.
And Valerie Gains? Her Hollywood fantasies are very much alive, though she continued to book her “dates” and commercials for dog food. The Jewel Arms wasn’t the end of the line for her, nosirree, just because Valentino is still punching the clock in rehab. Someday, she muses, he’d take her to snag her first Oscar. After that, they’d go to all the afterparties together. She’d even make sure he was sober. She could see it all now. Today, Valerie Gains. Tomorrow, the Satin Doll!