A Killer Waits Synopsis Memphis, 1986, a city still healing after decades of racial strife and one of the top ten murder cities in the U.S., is about to be dealt another blow to its reputation. A young Asian girl is found brutally slain and blood-drained among the decayed ruins of the old Magnolia Drive-In Theater. Captain Joseph “Buddy” Stern, pressured by the mayor and commissioner, orders Detectives ...
A Killer Waits
Memphis, 1986, a city still healing after decades of racial strife and one of the top ten murder cities in the U.S., is about to be dealt another blow to its reputation. A young Asian girl is found brutally slain and blood-drained among the decayed ruins of the old Magnolia Drive-In Theater.
Captain Joseph “Buddy” Stern, pressured by the mayor and commissioner, orders Detectives Alexander Travis and Isaac Joe Turner to head up the investigation, not realizing that the pairing of the feuding cops could spur the racist killer to kill again. Not only are Travis and Turner two of Stern’s best detectives, they are also black.
Travis, head of narcotics, is educated, married and still in love with his wife, Michelle, whom he met in college when they marched alongside Martin Luther King. Their only problem is their inability to conceive a child. Turner, top cop with the vice squad, is streetwise and well-liked by the other cops for his self-deprecating humor and unethical involvement with prostitutes he has arrested. Lack of trust, continual verbal abuse, and Turner’s suspected drug abuse drives the wedge deeper and deeper between the two cops.
The killer, Private Eddy “Snake” Wilson, was 16 when he lied to be part of the “Big WW II.” While stationed in Japan he lost his virginity to an experienced young prostitute who rejected his love and left him with a venereal disease. Now 67 he had spent most of his adult life in VA hospital mental wards where he could secure the drugs for his pain. While hiding out in the Memphis VA hospital, he is furious when he reads that inferior black cops have been assigned to investigate his work.
Angered, “Snake” kills a second Asian girl, found at Old Quarry Lake with the same MO: slashed throat, savage bite mark and moist note with the World War II slogan “KILLROY WAS HERE!” stuffed in the most private part of the young girl’s anatomy. The detectives are despondent because they had hoped that “Killroy” - a name the media dubbed the killer - had moved on, as he had done in other cities, so Stern would release them from the strain of working together.
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To further aggravate the tension between Travis and Turner, a new white intern on the forensic team makes her appearance. Dr. Viola Ackerman, wedded to her work, is everything Turner has missed in his sordid relationships - she’s intelligent, beautiful and, to his dismay, turned off by his aggressive, rude behavior. She is also gay.
When Captain Stern gets word of a similar killing in a small Mississippi town he flies the inexperienced Viola with Travis and Turner to investigate. Travis is claustrophobic and hates to fly, but Turner is eager for time with Viola.
Mississippi’s Sheriff Duggins is pissed at having to deal with the “nigra” cops. He guides them through the gloomy Rosedale Ice House - the only place the small town had to keep the corpse. Travis, Turner and Viola are sickened at the sight of the pathetic body, encased in ice blocks and badly beaten from the trip down the raging river. And to their surprise, the victim is black and Killroy had never killed a black girl before. Viola calls Stern to inform him that she can’t confirm the killer as Killroy. Stern orders her to investigate further. The trio returns to the creepy ice house, but this time Viola discovers something curious: a wad of soggy newspaper crammed deep in the victim’s throat. It is the same news article Killroy read in the hospital with Travis and Turner’s photo prominently displayed. Thinking that Killroy had moved on, the detectives are unaware that the killer has set his deadly sites on them.
Turner, drunk and despondent from Viola’s rejection, is a prime target for Killroy who runs him down with his truck. Risking his life, Travis proves to be Turner’s savior, though Turner is badly injured. In saving Turner, Travis realizes how much his partner has come to mean to him.
Disregarding all the evidence that Killroy’s crazed mind has come completely unhinged, Travis, fighting a debilitating fear of closed places, corners the killer in a tunnel at the construction site next to the VA hospital and kills him.
A native of Port Arthur, Texas, Kenneth O. Johnson,
majored in English and Theater Arts at the University of Minnesota, where he won the Creative Arts Festival’s Best Play Award for directing and writing The Last Man Home.
In the Air Force, he organized the first little theater in the Air Defense Command and won honors for his work with the youth of Silver Bay, Minnesota, directing a Summer production of The Boy Friend.
In Austin, he produced and directed over 100 productions including three seasons for the Austin Civic Theatre. The name of the theatre was changed to Zachary Scott Theater during his tenure as Artistic Director. He established his own theatre company, Center Stage, where he produced cutting edge theater. He was the first to produce Broadway caliber musicals in the old Paramount Theater, helping in its restoration. His production of West Side Story was the highest grossing community theatre production at the time.
For the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library’s symposium of Women in Public Life, he directed Women Through the Ages, starring Texan Sandy Duncan. Also for the Johnson Library, he directed the first evening of Lady Bird Johnson’s Eightieth Birthday Celebration, starring Carol Channing and many of Mrs. Johnson’s friends, including daughters Linda and Luci Johnson.
In Los Angeles, California, Johnson directed his autobiographical play, Final Touches, starring Dana Elcar and Christopher McDonald. The production was nominated for 15 L A. Drama Critic Awards, winning Drama-Logue Awards for Best Play, Best Director, Best Lead Actor and Best set. Returning to Austin with his play it won all 5 of the Austin Circle of Theater Awards in the Drama category. The play was later staged in regional theaters.
About The Director - page 2
Back in Austin, Johnson founded the Hyde Park Theater, producing and directing a variety of work including productions of his own plays, Duet In B Flat, American Realism, A Way Back Home (a musical version of Hansel and Gretel) and An Evening of Short and Briefs, a series of short plays and skits.
Most recently, Mr. Johnson has been making independent films. His short One Small Step for Mankind was shown on the PBS series Egg, The Art Show. His play Jesse’s Closet received three Best Actor Nominations in it’s stage production before Johnson turned it into his first feature