The Manhunt for Fritz Schicklgruber Comes 5to My Backyard
Randy Bechtel, The Gray Geezer
The Manhunt for Fritz Schicklgruber Comes to My Backyard

The District Attorney’s televised news conference that morning had been "my 15 minutes of fame,” I told the police detective. “I had hoped for more.”

“More what?” the detective sneered behind his face mask. “An hour? A day? A year? What?”  

 “I meant more in terms of quality, not time,” I said.

My 15 minutes had been 15 minutes too many. It consisted of me being:

  • Falsely portrayed as the “media guru” behind the failed campaign of a supervisorial candidate who called for Sacramento County to take the lead in the colonization of Mars;  
  • Falsely identified as a possible accomplice in a narcotics smuggling and trafficking gang headed by the fugitive Fritz Schicklgruber; and
  • Falsely implicated as the screenwriter of the film “Pre-schoolers Play Hide the Weanie” that was produced by recently incarcerated Schicklgruber henchmen Olaf and Sven Svensen.

After being questioned by Detective Lieutenant Baker, I resolved not to answer emails, telephone calls, texts and the door for at least a week. This made sense regarding the media. I was a secondary figure in a story about the manhunt for Schicklgruber, and in today’s 24/7 news cycle, secondary characters who give the media nothing further to report are soon forgotten.

I would later discover that, media aside, most of my emails, texts and voicemails came not from friends, but from acquaintances present and past. These acquaintances seemed surprised—even dumfounded—that my life was so exciting. The only calculus that made sense was that these acquaintances had not befriended me thinking I was too dull, while my friends now avoided me shocked that I was so exciting.

All over nothing.

Even Detective Baker, after questioning me in my backyard, seemed satisfied I was too boring to be a person of interest.

Baker’s suspicion had stemmed mainly from the insinuation at the news conference that I was the screenwriter of the film “Pre-schoolers Play Hide the Weanie.” According to news reports, producers Sven and Olaf Svensen were arrested for child pornography two years ago at the film’s premiere in the San Fernando Valley. The L.A. District Attorney dropped the charge when it was shown the Svensen brothers, middle-aged twin dwarfs, had played the pre-schoolers.

It made sense that Baker would focus on the porn film. Being its screenwriter would mean I associated with the Svensen brothers at least two years ago and therefore probably also associated with their crime boss, Fritz Schicklgruber.  In fact, I never met nor even spoke to the Svensen brothers, and my only contact with Schicklgruber had been via Zoom and telephone calls beginning in March. That was when Schicklgruber, a.k.a. the magician Fantastic Fritz, joined the cast of “The Abracadabra Cadavers,” a dinner theater mystery I had scripted.  

I said to Baker: “I write whodunit mysteries for dinner theater. People who write whodunnits for dinner theater don’t write screenplays for porn films.”

“And yet,” Baker countered, “you created a website——which is all about moviemaking and has an entire section on screenplays.”

“Detective, ‘Hollywood Lexicon’ is a film history website,” I protested. “It doesn’t make any money. And it’s more academic than anything else. Right now I’m writing an article entitled ‘Absurdities Institutionalized by Screenwriters.’”

Baker stared at me with steely eyes, then said: “Do you expect me to know what that means?”

“Its an article that points out stupid scenes and dialogue that filmmakers have repeated through the years. Like the scene in which two or more people at close range simultaneously point guns at each other, then engage in a conversation that defuses the situation. In reality, people who simultaneously point guns at each other stop thinking.”

“And you know this how?” Baker asked.

“I was in Vietnam.”

“As what?”

“11 Bravo.”

“Were you now? With what outfit?”

As a rule, I never reveal that I had been an infantryman in Vietnam. I learned years ago that people who learned this inferred I was a loser, a psychotic or, as in this case, a liar trying to impress them. With a tilt of belligerence, I replied in a way I knew would close the subject: “Delta Company, 4th to the 21st Infantry, 11th Brigade, Americal Division.”

The sneer left Baker’s tone. “So explain to me this,” he said. “Why did so many in the audience of your whodunnit complain that it was obscene?”

I shrugged. “That’s a matter of opinion. The cast considered it a love scene. In fact, it was the idea of our two leading ladies, Leslie and Ann. They’re gay and wanted to make a statement by kissing.”

“Uh-huh. But they turned to you to write their dialogue. Which people found very offensive.”

“That dialogue, Detective, was an homage to an old novel,” I said.

“What novel?”

“Uh . . . Flesh Hips.”

Flesh Hips?” interrupted my wife, until then a silent spectator. “Where did you get that?”

“It was one of the things in that shoebox Uncle Perry left me.”

Glaring at me, Jane snapped: “That was two years ago! You kept a book called Flesh Hips?”

“I can’t throw away books. And not one from Uncle Perry.”

“You’re saying Flesh Hips has sentimental value?” Jane scoffed.

“I liked Uncle Perry.”

“Uncle Perry was a drunk!”

“Uncle Perry was demented!”

“Uncle Perry was demented because he was a drunk!”

I popped up from my chair and said to Baker: “Why don’t I get the book?” I didn’t wait for a response.

I returned with Flesh Hips open to the pages I had highlighted in yellow for my script. I handed the paperback open to Baker so my wife could not see the cover’s artwork. Baker read silently, turned back to the highlighted text’s beginning, read again, then said:

“A lot of this seems to be repeated verbatim in your script.”

“Like I said, my script is an homage.”

“In other words, it’s stolen material.”

“Exactly Detective! That’s my point! I couldn’t make that kind of stuff up myself. Let alone write a script called ‘Pre-schoolers Play Hide the Weanie.’”

“Unless . . .” Jane said, “you stole dialogue from another book Uncle Perry left you. I do recall glimpsing a book by your computer titled Hot Tots.”

“She’s joking,” I said to Baker.

“Maybe you should show the officer Uncle Perry’s box?” Jane said.

“I threw that out and most the stuff in it,” I said.

“But kept Flesh Hips?” Jane hissed.

Baker tossed the book on the patio table and said impassively: “It’ll be easy enough to check—one, if there is a book called Hot Tots; two, if its dialogue is in ‘Pre-schoolers Play Hide the Weanie.’”

Jane stood, craned her neck to eye the book’s cover, grimaced and stomped off toward the house.

“She hasn’t been very happy with me after watching that news conference this morning,” I said to Baker.

Baker appeared to flash a smile behind his mask that conveyed he didn’t give a rat’s ass.

“I think we can wrap this up,” he said. “Just tell me what reason Schicklgruber gave you for joining your acting group? Crime boss though he was, he did have a good reputation as a magician. Joining the— What is it you call yourselves?  Oh yeah, the Blade Hathaway Players. Schicklgruber joining you was a considerable step down for him.”

“Nice of you to say.”


I ignored this question, saying: "The pandemic was one reason Fritz joined us. It shut down his theater and nightclub circuit. And—yes—I do recall Lionel saying—Lionel Mason was our director when I was there—that Fritz wanted to retire from the circuit and open a magic store. That was it! He planned to sell and make magician props. We were a way for him to promote—”

“Hello back there!”

The voice belonged to my friend Eddie Merkel, who was entering my backyard gate carrying a wine bottle and a wine glass. Every Friday afternoon since Spring, Eddie and I had drunk a bottle of wine each in one or the other’s backyard.

I stood. Baker stood. I said:

“Eddie, this is Detective Baker. He’s here getting information about Fritz Schicklgruber.”

Eddie smiled like a boy eyeing presents under the Christmas tree.

“Have you caught Schicklgruber yet?” he asked Baker.

“No, but we will.”

“I have a lead about Schicklgruber’s disguise to escape capture,” Eddie said. “It makes perfect sense when you think about it. He’s a magician, so he’ll become the opposite of what everyone is looking for. In other words, a woman!”

“Fritz would make one ugly woman,” I said.

“Hey, you don’t know that! He’s a magician!” Eddie said. “Besides, in this LGBTQ world, if you see what you guess might be a guy in drag, you ignore him and go about your business.”

Baker had seemed stoic to me save for an occasional sneer in his voice. That is, until I watched him listen to Eddie and noticed his eyes were subtly but definitely expressive. I was reminded of the progression I observed in a video shot by my Aunt Irene of my Uncle Larry as Larry watched a horse he had bet on across the board go from first to fourth in the stretch.

“Uh-huh,” Baker said to Eddie. Then to me: “Thank you for your time.”

“Oh, but that’s not the important part!” Eddie said to Baker. “My guess is Schicklgruber is already gone from the state. Question is: To where? Not Canada because its border is closed. Not Mexico because the FBI will be looking for him at the border. So where would he go in the U.S.? The obvious answer is somewhere no one would think of looking for him. Somewhere no one else would think to go. A place like Ionia, Iowa.”

“Eddie grew up in Ionia,” I said to Baker.

Baker nodded and said, “I’ll alert the constabulary in Ionia to be on the outlook for all newly arrived transvestites.”

“I didn’t mean—he still wouldn’t be—dressed as a woman . . .” Eddie babbled.

Baker ignored him as he went around the table on his way to the gate. He stopped at the sound of my wife yelling: “Detective, wait!”

Holding a plastic sandwich bag, Jane hurried to the table and, as if handling a dead rat, used two fingers to lift the copy of Flesh Hips up by its cover and insert it into the bag. She handed the sealed bag to Baker saying, “You don’t want to forget this evidence.”

“Evidence of what?” Baker asked.

“Why . . . evidence of . . . of . . . this whole sordid thing!” Jane said.

“The only evidence I’m concerned with is evidence of criminal complicity with the Schicklgruber gang,” Baker said. “This is evidence of plagiarizing a dirty book. We at Narcotics and Vice don’t handle plagiarism—even of dirty books.”

“Detective, you know what amazes me?” Eddie enthused in his usual upbeat way that was unfettered by the pandemic. “For all his mastery of illusion and deception, not even Fantastic Fritz could disprove the principle that there’s no such thing as a perfect crime.”

Baker stared blankly at Eddie for a moment, then said, “There’s no such thing as a perfect crime . . . that we know of. If a crime were perfect, we wouldn’t know of it, would we?”

Baker tossed the bagged book on the table and left our yard shaking his head.

“What happened here?” Eddie asked.

Jane said: “Randy has been found innocent of all charges. Well, except for being the mastermind behind the movement for Sacramento County to colonize Mars.”

“Thanks for all your help!” I said to Jane.

“I wanted a reason to go on the run," she said. "A reason to sneak out of town. Go somewhere! Go anywhere!"

"I wasn't being sarcastic, dear," I said. "Judging by the expression on Baker's face, I'm surprised he didn't tell us to leave town."

Copyright © 2020 by Randy Bechtel

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