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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wanna be a detective?

Mark Evanier has a fascinating blog called Quite often he comes up with a real winner related to show biz. Today was one of those days. Read the following and then, if you think you can come up with the appropriate clues, write to him at his blog. Who knows? You might be part of a new movement to come up with a new detective show:

Oceans Three

Last Tuesday morning at 3:50 AM, a man in a motorcyclist outfit — complete with a helmet that covered his face — walked into the Bellagio Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas, grabbed up $1.5 million dollars in chips and fled on his 'cycle. He is still at large and police are attempting to identify and arrest the guy while everyone else in Nevada has a laugh at his expense. Those chips, you see, are nearly worthless. While he (or more likely, accomplices) might be able to convert some of the $100 and lower denomination chips to cash, he can't possibly redeem the chips for for big amounts.

The Bellagio won't say if the chips contain sensors that make them trackable and identifiable...but even if they don't, what's he going to do with the $25,000 ones? The casinos know their high-rollers — the kind of people who would have such chips — and he probably isn't one of them. If an unknown guy walks in to cash any significant number of chips, he's going to be detained and questioned. So the thief was pretty stupid, right?

Well, maybe. I got to thinking: What if this was the opening of an episode of Banacek or one of those shows? Could there be a more devious plan at work here? Here's what I came up with...

It wouldn't be a Banacek because he only got involved when something of great value was stolen and when it was insured for great value...but let's say it's that kind of detective. Maybe Ellery Queen or Columbo. Someone's eager to catch the guy (he did apparently pull off some real robberies elsewhere recently) so they call in the great investigator. He goes around and questions various hotel officials and employees, including a beautiful woman named Heather who's in charge of the distribution and counting of the chips. Then he calls them all together and says, "I think I've solved the robbery of $1.5 million in chips here."

The owner of the hotel says, "Well, just to be correct, those chips cost us about 70 cents each. There's no way the thief can cash them in."

The detective smiles and says, "He doesn't have to. The $1.5 million is already gone." As the hotel owner reacts, the detective adds, "You've been robbed, sir."

And he goes on to explain that the stolen chips were inside job. Heather stole $1.5 million worth of them and substituted the phonies. "No one noticed," the detective explains. "She's had her boy friend cashing the real chips in for weeks of your high-rollers. You didn't know they were involved but they are...and there's a third member of their team. He's one of your Casino Hosts and he's been vouching for the boy friend being a big winner. Since at any given time, this casino has millions of dollars in chips outstanding that haven't been redeemed yet, no one noticed. Heather's boy friend has been coming in and cashing in $100,000 or more worth of real chips at a time."

The head of security for the casino butts in and says, "Okay, but they couldn't have gotten away with it for long. Eventually, we would have realized we had $1.5 million more in chips than we were supposed to have..."

The detective interrupts. "Correct. Once the overage was discovered, someone would have realized counterfeiting was going on. The trail would have led to Heather's department...which is why they had to get rid of the counterfeit chips. They hired the guy on the motorcycle to come in and do it. It was a simple matter for Heather to arrange for all the counterfeit chips to be assigned to that particular table that night so they could all be stolen at once. It wasn't a robbery. The robbery had already taken place. This was them disposing of the evidence."

The security head steps forward. "But that wouldn't have eliminated all the counterfeit chips. Some players would have won some of them..."

The detective explains, "Not many. I checked. New racks of chips were delivered to the table at 3:35 AM. Those were the counterfeits. Play resumed at 3:40 so the counterfeits were only in the game for about ten minutes. Yes, a few players had won them but Heather and her crew weren't worried about a few counterfeit chips being in circulation. Since they would eventually come through her department, she could easily switch those back for real chips. What they were afraid of was the realization that $1.5 million in fake chips were around. That would have led you to Heather's division. And if that didn't put the finger of suspicion on her, the jig would have been up in two weeks when that new Counterfeit Chip Detector device you ordered arrives. The first thing they planned to do was to check every chip in the place."

At this point, the detective reveals the clues that tipped him off and I haven't figured those out yet. But they're firm enough that Heather says to him, angrily: "And we would have gotten away with it if not for you" and proceeds to confess. The head of security takes her away and on the way out says, "I'll notify the police to pick up the boy friend and the Casino Host. One of them will tell us where we can find the motorcyclist." Case closed.

Yeah, there are a few plot holes in it...but all those whodunnit shows they did out at Universal in the sixties and seventies had a few plot holes in their stories. Anyone out there got a better scenario? I'm not asking you to solve the real crime...just the way it would have played out on a detective show of the seventies.

If you'd like to submit "clues," write to

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