portion of the artwork for Elaine Gulker's story

Episode Thirty-Three
Elaine Gulker

Dick Wolf shook his head. “That’s the kind of bullshit I don’t want.”

Leslie Hendrix was questioned about her date on the night of the crime by two detectives from the New York Police Department.

On Friday the weather was better and Sam Waterston was back from his trip. His appearance before the grand jury was more show than substance.

Dennis Farina gave Michael Imperioli a quick, cold look and turned his attention to Leslie, who was now whimpering. Like all good cops he liked to be in charge. To everyone’s utter amazement, Leslie flashed a sly smile, then winked.

Since the weather was beginning to clear, plans were made for the cast and crew to go to Atlantic City. Dick Wolf was accused of withholding information from the press.

“That’s the kind of bullshit I don’t want,” he said again.

Having nothing factual to report, the Daily News was speculating about an inside job. There were numerous stories suggesting that Carolyn McCormick and the show’s writers were somehow behind the crime. Wolf hoped for a break that would divert the press and the public.

* * *

Twenty years is a long run for a television show. My interest in the show was nil. I had not seen a single episode until I watched a one-hour documentary aired on public television. Titled Who Killed Law & Order?, it was based on the research of Elaine Gulker, a reporter who documented the theory that the original Law & Order was killed off after thirty-three episodes and a new Law & Order was cleverly substituted to hide the crime. Elaine Gulker is my name and I found it interesting that a reporter existed with the same name. A friend of mine pointed out that if I checked a phone book I would certainly find a great number of Elaine Gulkers. I checked and I did. However, the Gulker I was most interested in was the reporter. I called her.

* * *

Dick Wolf dismissed Gulker’s documentary and gunshot theory as absurd. “That’s the kind of bullshit I don’t want,” he reiterated. “Where was the bullet?” After eating dinner at the lunchroom, he and his wife drove back to their apartment on East 222nd Street.

* * *

On January 1, 2010, Detective Flynn was assigned full time to the Law & Order investigation. His new assignment was accompanied by a promotion to the rank of lieutenant. Dick Wolf wasn’t cooperating with the New York Police Department (“That’s the kind of bullshit I don’t want.”) Flynn’s investigation consisted of keeping track of all 445 episodes that were popping up on televisions all over the world. Flynn had previously only studied pieces of the show. He noted that episode number fourteen had four nail holes in it. Episodes sixteen and twenty-five each had four nail holes in them. This became Flynn’s “nail hole” theory. Shortly thereafter he was removed from the case.

* * *

When I called Elaine Gulker I was thrown off by the echo I heard from the other end of the line.

“Hello, is this Elaine Gulker?”

“Hello, is this Elaine Gulker?”

“Is Elaine Gulker there?”

“Is Elaine Gulker there?”

“I beg your pardon.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“I wish to speak to Elaine Gulker, the reporter who has a theory on the demise of Law & Order.”

“I wish to speak to Elaine Gulker, the reporter who has a theory on the demise of Law & Order.”

Puzzled, I hung the phone up. All throughout that day I could not shake the overwhelming feeling that when I hung up, Elaine Gulker, the reporter, had hung her phone up at the exact same moment.

* * *

Since the discovery of episode eighty-eight, more and more information about the investigation was leaking out. Many were wondering how the producers of Law & Order had managed to keep the show going without proving that the show was still alive. A writer for a popular crime magazine called The Detective in an article entitled, “Why No Lie Detector for the Law & Order Cast?” called the investigation a “fractious fizzle,” stating it had been “majestically bungled from every angle.” The author of this article? Elaine Gulker.

* * *

Dick Wolf couldn’t say what he was doing on the evening of March 12, 2009, the night Law & Order was filming an episode in Van Cortandt Park. It was past midnight and Wolf had been seated on the hard, wooden chair ten hours. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast and he was tired. At one in the morning, Sgt. Tommy Short of the New York Police Department handed Wolf a pen and a sheet of paper and instructed him to write down the words he read to him. Wolf looked down at the paper and handed it back blank. “That’s the kind of bullshit I don’t want,” he told the officer.

* * *

On the afternoon of December 18, 2009, while I was watching a rerun of episode 297, there was a knock at my door. I opened it and found a small gift-wrapped box lying on the floor in the hallway. I retrieved the box. Inside were pearl earrings and a note that read: These are 4 U. It was signed, Elaine.

* * *

Suspicion moved from the cast and crew to a fanatical fan known only as Channel Surfer Lady. The suspect lived in the Williamsbridge section of The Bronx, an area located between Woodlawn Cemetery and Pelham Bay Park in the north-central portion of the borough. Two police cars pulled up, and before they came to a stop, doors flew open and five officers, with their guns drawn, scrambled to the front door of the house. Kicking it in, they found Channel Surfer Lady sitting in his living room watching episode thirty-three of Law & Order. This was purportedly the episode during which the show had been allegedly murdered. Channel Surfer Lady, with a gun in his ribs, was yanked out of his house, frisked, then handcuffed. Though he was a huge, burly man, Channel Surfer Lady, wearing a flowered robe and still in his bedroom slippers, gave himself up without a fight.

* * *

Wearing the earrings Elaine had given me, I hailed a cab and headed for the newspaper where she worked, The Bronx Home News. When I entered the lobby the receptionist looked up, smiled, and said, “Hello, Elaine.”

* * *

Although a thorough search of the Law & Order studio had failed to uncover anything substantial, the police had found other, less obvious evidence. In Dick Wolf’s desk they came across scripts written on sheets of white, watermarked paper that looked very similar to the paper used to write episode thirty-three. Detective Jimmy Petrosino took one of the scripts from the desk and read it. The officers in the studio gathered around as Petrosino read the other eighty-three scripts.

“I don’t understand,” Patrolman Jennings said.

“I get it,” Sgt. Bello replied.

* * *

The editor of The Bronx Home News, Vicki Jennings (coincidently, the sister of Patrolman Jennings), came out to the lobby to greet me.

“Elaine, darling, where ever have you been? We’ve been worried.”

I was escorted toward a desk and along the way hardened Bronx reporters shouted my name and waved both hands in greeting. The copy boy, Carl the Copy Boy, waved a blue and white Yankees giant foam #1 finger and shouted, “Elaine, welcome home—homey!”

“Welcome back, babe,” said one old man who looked similar to the killer in episode 359.

On Elaine’s desk was a framed picture of Dick Wolf. The inscription above the signature read: Elaine, always be a good girl.

* * *

After a cursory examination, the doctor said that Leslie Hendrix was on the verge of hysteria and could not be further questioned. The doctor’s order angered the cast. They were certain that Leslie was faking—she was using the doctor to keep the police away from her and to throw suspicion onto them. Perhaps, but the investigation was floundering and running out of steam. It had produced more questions than answers. The police had very little to go on—a homemade tape of episode thirty-three, a chisel, fifteen hundred unfinished Law & Order scripts, thousands of newspaper headlines, eleven signed cast promotional photos, and an eccentric Channel Surfer Lady person who now claimed he was an eyewitness to the murder.

* * *

It was a bad time for everyone in the case. Elaine Gulker, not I, in a letter to her mother-in-law I found in her desk drawer, summed things up in this way:

Law & Order is at a standstill until the publicity dies down. It is still front-page headlines everywhere. In the meantime all tips are followed up daily. They never seem to come to anything, but there’s always the chance one may. I would like your recipe for lasagna.

* * *

Coda

The absence of blood in episode thirty-three was raised by an attorney named Elaine R. Gulker. (No relationship to me or Elaine Gulker, the reporter.) Attorney Gulker pointed out that the lack of blood proved that Dick Wolf could not have struck episode thirty-three with a blunt instrument before the episode ended. This brought several responses from physicians who took issue with the lawyers’ assumption that a violent blow to a television episode would leave blood stains. The doctors pointed out that television episodes seldom exhibit external bleeding. “It just so happens that a television episode, such as episode thirty-three of Law & Order, is a gristly, fibrous amalgam of videotape and rehashed headlines easily dented or crushed … The absence of blood stains in the show does not, by itself, rule out the possibility that episode thirty-three was beaten over the head and died.”

* * *

Yesterday, I met Elaine Gulker, reporter, face to face, along with her two grown sons and a nine-year-old daughter. She looked overheated in her plain felt hat and heavy, full-length coat with a large fur collar. Her face seemed too large for the dark, round sunglasses perched on her tiny nose. At first her face was ghost white, but when she flashed a smile she displayed dimples that caused me to think back to when I was a little girl and everyone called me Dolly Dimples. As my face uncontrollably broke into a similar smile, my dark, round sunglasses nearly slipped from my tiny nose.

* * *

Postscript

The murder of Law & Order episode thirty-three remains a cold case. The editor of FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry, Ellen Parker, welcomes any tips that would lead to the apprehension of the killer or killers. Contact her only if your information is directly related to the case. Anything else is the kind of bullshit she doesn’t want.

You may contact her at webmaster@friggmagazine.com.




My friend Patty Carr is the L&O fan, not me. Her husband is a singer somewhere and we never see him so Patty asks me to come over and watch with her and I can’t refuse. Mostly I space out, drink her beer, and munch her chips and tell her it was a good episode after it’s over. I bought a L&O fan book at a flea market for twenty-five cents and gave it to her for Christmas. Sometimes they talk too damn much on that show and that’s when I excuse myself but I always come back in time for the commercials.




FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 27 | Law & Order Issue | Winter 2010