Podcast / Black Jack Justice


"Once again Decoder Ring Theatre presents another page from the casebook of that master of mystery, that sultan of sleuthing, Martin Bracknell's immortal detective Black Jack Justice."

One of several online Podcast series from Decoder Ring Theatre. This one homages the "mystery noir" programs of the 1940s and 50s.

Jonathan J. Justice, also known as "Black Jack," is a Private Detective who, along with his associate, Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective, solves cases for the modest fee of $39.95 a day, plus expenses. While they normally deal with mundane cases (most often watching spouses for signs of disloyalty), they will frequently get wrapped up in much larger, and more dangerous cases, much to the annoyance of their public detective friend, Lt. Victor Sabien.

The series takes place shortly after the end of World War II, in an unidentified city in the United States, presumably further north than Chicago or New York (as going to either is considered going "down").
This series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Trixie knows how to use a gun and solves as many cases as Jack does; Trixie is often the rescuer when Jack gets himself into trouble.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • The episode "Cops and Robbers" has Sergeant Nelson, Freddy "The Finger" and "Button-down" Theo in the main roles, while Jack and Trixie play minor parts.
    • Likewise, the episode "Man's Best Friend" is narrated by King, Jr, the agency dog.
  • Badass in Distress: One of Jack's many talents is to get into trouble, try to get out of it and get saved by Trixie. Sometimes the roles are reversed.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Trixie keeps calling Jack an idiot, even though he's clearly about as intelligent and well-read as she is. She also says he's unattractive, even though female clients keep walking in and flirting with him. On the other hand, he's not her type. Ironically, she likes men who are dumb enough to manipulate, which he is clearly not.
    • In the novel, an Origins Episode, we learn how they met. He sneaks up on her, outguns her, outwits her, and doesn't hit on her. No wonder this is irritating.
  • Bottle Episode:
    • The tenth-season episode, The Road To Hell. The episode consists almost entirely of Jack and Trixie bickering with one another as they trail a client's husband by car. While it's not actually tied to one location (which would not be a problem for an audio drama anyway), no other character has any speaking lines in the entire episode, and Jack and Trixie spend most of their time in the car and getting on each other's nerves.
    • Another episode played with the concept; it took place entirely in a single car. If it were a TV show, it would probably be a Bottle episode...except for the part where every single member of the regular and recurring cast end up in and out of that car over the course of the installment.
  • Brain Bleach:
    Jack: I'm not the one that was making nice with Freddy's identical cousin.
    Trixie: Don't remind me. I'll have to wash my imagination twice.
    Herman: Freddy! Is Dolly your girl?
    Trixie: Ugh... three times.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Sometimes the narrative is cut short because someone is wondering why the narrator hasn't spoken or has a weird look on their face. In one case, a very hung-over Jack actually concludes his monologue out loud. ("See what I mean? Oh, was that out loud?") In episode 51, Jack actually refers directly to the fact that it is episode 51 in his opening monologue.
    • One episode takes place in a car, and Trixie shoos everyone out so she can deliver her closing monologue.
  • Breather Episode: "Much Ado About Norman" is a hilarious, easygoing misadventure sandwiched between "The Reunion" a twisted family piece, and "Dance, Justice, Dance", perhaps one of the most action packed episodes in the series.
  • The Cameo: Mary Jo Pehl appears in "A Midsummer Night's Noir" as Anna Castle, star of an extraordinarily cheesy detective movie. Appropriately enough, Jack and Freddie spend part of the episode heckling the movie as they watch it.
  • Catch Phrase: Jack and Trixie share two, both being responses to insults they can't disagree with: "That's tough, but fair" and "That's probably true, but you still shouldn't say it." Usually said in the middle of one of their usual Snark-to-Snark Combat sessions.
    • People call Trixie "Miss Dixon", which she responds to with "Trixie, please!"
  • Characterization Marches On: In the first episode the coffee is "not very good, nor very fresh," but in the very next episode Jack is a coffee expert who can and will go out of his way for coffee, and frequent references are made to the quality of his Columbian blend.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In one episode, Trixie's narration mentions that Sabien has a 17-year old daughter. Several episodes later, he comes to the pair to hire them. A pregnant teenage black girl was found dead in an apartment, and everyone writes it off as just another crime in that part of town. Everyone except Sabien, who takes it very seriously. Neither of our detectives say why, but it's clear they understand.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Retroactively: the novel is an Origins Episode and introduces a number of interesting characters who never appeared in the audio drama.
  • City with No Name: We never find out just the name of the city the series is based in, though Jack's closing monologue in "Palookaville Express" jokes about how Trixie of the Northwest Mounted Police got her man, as usual.
  • Clear My Name: Jack is often accused by Homicide detective Sabien for murdering whoever was murdered in the episode.
    Sabien always thinks I did it, and he always ends up with the right guy behind bars.
  • Cowboy Cop: Lieutenant Sabien ("As for our friend "Ricky..." Someone once told him cops played by the rules. Exceptions are a slippery slope, and he was about to find that out.")
  • Darker and Edgier: Oh it's less violent and action oriented than Red Panda Adventures, but it's pretty clear that there isn't going to be much victory champagne to be passed around either. The city is full of mentally and physically scarred World War II vets, some of whom have turned to organized crime for greed or survival; there's murder, theft, and blackmail from the ivory towers to the darkest alleys to the quaintest suburban homes; And some cases like in "Justice and The Deluge" and "The Beefsteak Botheration" reveal just how terrible and crummy people can be. There are moments of levity, but it's a world where our heroes, the police, and the city undertaker, will never be too short of work; a world not of crusades but of everyday survival.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jack, Trixie, Sabien, and a lot of the one shot characters. In fact, most of the characters, recurring and one-shot, have traces of this.
  • Demoted to Extra: Mighty King, the office dog, was never actually a major character, but following his introduction in the second-season episode How Much Is That Gumshoe In The Window? he was a constant presence and occasional plot-mover who even got his own A Day in the Limelight episode, Man's Best Friend, in the sixth season. In the later seasons, though, he vanishes almost completely, only getting the occasional mention — usually mention as lying asleep on the couch.
  • Detective Drama: The "Closed" variety. (Audience are as much in the dark as the detectives)
  • Detective Patsy: A couple of episodes showed a client attempting this.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Inverted. Fredrick Josiah Hawthorne does not like Trixie's nickname for him("Freddy the Finger"). Of course, the fact that he's a coward and she's not prevents him from doing much beyond complaining.
  • Downer Ending: "Justice and The Deluge", you know things are going downhill when Jack starts the episode bright eyed and chipper on a RAINY day.
  • Emergency Impersonation: One of Jack's clients, to whom he bore a passing resemblance, hired him to act as stand-in for a family "reunion." Because of this, the family, who wanted to kill the client for his inheritance, sent a hitman to kill Jack, instead.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: In "No Justice", Jack's attempts to provoke a mobster's "dumb gorilla" flunky initially fail because the mob boss can keep him under control. Then Jack insults his mother and all hell breaks loose.
    Jack: Never fails with these big dumb types! If you can't get 'em with the manhood, get 'em with the mother!
  • Evil Twin: Invoked and then Subverted in one episode. Invoked by their client's husband to explain away any crime someone might see him commit in The Problem of the Perplexing Pastiche
  • Exasperated Perp: Jack will often use this method to both get his captors angry enough to make mistakes (such as blurting out the truth), and to delay them until Trixie can arrive.
  • Exposition: The monologues aren't the only way the audience is clued in as to what's going on... given, of course, that they can't really see anything. Papers will be read out loud, and the characters will explain what's going on, even if it might be obvious to someone already there. This is Lampshaded in some cases. ("Why do you say that?" "A strange compulsion for exposition?")
  • Femme Fatale: Jack keeps falling for these. Luckily Trixie can spot them a mile away. Of course, Trixie herself fits the protagonist version of this trope (when she's not playing the Action Girl), so it's no surprise that she can recognize them.
  • Food as Bribe: Jack and Trixie, in later episodes, begin regularly bringing Sabien food or offering to treat him to someplace nice as a means of getting him to help them out.
  • Friend on the Force: Lieutenant Sabien is nominally this to Jack and Trixie, though the friendship is more Vitriolic Best Buds than True Companions.
  • Genre Throwback: The series is an homage to film noir stories of the World War II era..
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: You like Christmas, right? So do the characters. It's an excellent expletive to use when something isn't going right. ("Aw, christmas!")
  • Hardboiled Detective: Both of them.
  • The Hyena: Sabien, if the humor is black enough, and if Jack is suffering enough.
  • I Found You Like This: Dorothy Evans found Jack outside her home after he was shot. She brought him in and nursed him back to consciousness. Unfortunately, there was no time to bring him back to health, as her call for an ambulance tipped off the dirty cop that shot him in the first place.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Sergeant Nelson isn't the brightest cop on the force by a long shot, but when it comes to a long shot, he can nail it with a pistol. ("Handguns aren't much of a distance weapon, no matter what you might see in the cowboy pictures.")
  • Improvised Weapon: Dot whams a dirty cop with a coal scuttle.
  • In-Series Nickname: Jack used his nickname because it was good for business. Jack earned his nickname by being sapped on a regular basis before the War.
  • I Shall Taunt You: In "No Justice", Jack is being questioned by mobster Chick Mason and his flunkies Monk and Hak. Jack spends as much time as possible insulting Dumb Muscle Hak to provoke him. He's initially thwarted because Mason can keep him under control. Then Jack insults his mother, and sends him into a blind rage, during which he ignores his boss to attack Jack. It is at that point Jack reveals he slipped out of his handcuffs ten minutes ago and proceeds to beat down Hak, Mason, and Monk in quick succession.
  • It Amused Me: In "The Do-Nothing Detective", Sabien handcuffs Jack and Trixie together. He tells them it's due to regulations, since at that moment they need to keep up a pretense of the duo being material witnesses. In his narration, Sabien admits it's because he thought it was funny.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Trixie genuinely believes in the law, will seduce, fight, and sleuth her way to the truth... but is a tad unpleasant to be around. ...except for those poor men to whom she has an interest in at the moment.
  • Jumping-On Point: The beginning of each season.
  • Knowledge Broker: Freddy "the Finger" Hawthorne is generally liked by the criminal element, on account that he usually serves as a lookout and will hold or move items on their behalf. A personal friend of Jack, he serves as an informant for the duo from time to time.
  • Lady in Red: Trixie ("Hah, speechless. The day I couldn't do that anymore is the day I stop wearing the little red dress.")
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • As episode 47 "To the Manor Born" becomes more and more cliched, Trixie gleefully lampshades the living hell out of it.
    • One episode involves a movie detective with an improbable name, and the dozen or so women trying to imitate her antics. When Patricia "Trixie" Dixon shows up, they don't believe her name is real.
  • Leitmotif: Jack's monologue is almost always supported by a simple bassline, while Trixie's usually features a more complex arrangement that includes a saxophone. The exception is sometimes at the beginning monologue for the episode (regardless of who tells it), which has its own arrangement.
  • Lovable Coward: Freddy "the Finger" Hawthorne, who is sometimes Jack's Cowardly Sidekick. ("Don't kid around about that stuff, Jackie! I'm a marshmallow, and you know it!")
  • The Mafia: Jack and Trixie seem to take on, and take down a family or organization at least once a season. (The Sullivan Mob and Chick Mason's organization, so far. Marginally involved with the downfall of Rocco D'Angelo's organization and the Giannelli Family)
  • Must Have Caffeine:
    • Jack loves his coffee. ("Put the safety back on the Baretta, Trix. I died five seconds ago from a tragic lack of coffee.")
    • One case is set partially in a museum, where Jack spends several hours guarding a mummy. He carries four Thermoses. It's all he had brewed.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Played straight with Rocco D'Angelo (aka "Rocky Angel", aka "The Angel of Death") and somewhat subverted with Marty "The Knife" Rand. Marty got the name from peeling potatoes back in the army, and kept it because it was good for business. He did run an illegal gambling establishment, but so far is on good terms with Jack, who was his commanding officer in the army.
  • Never My Fault: The lack of this trope is the key clue in "The Reunion". Jack and Trixie's client is a woman trying to reunite with her estranged twin sister after she basically stole the man her sister loved from her. What tips the detectives off is that their client took full responsibility for her actions with no attempt to justify them, something they see all too often. They eventually realize the sister killed her twin and was impersonating her so she could use Jack and Trixie to make it look like they'd reunited amicably so she wouldn't be suspected when the client was missed.
  • Nice Guy: "Button-Down" Theodore West is the epitome of this trope.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The agency price went up ("$39.95/day plus expenses"), Jack got married, "Button Down" Theo got married, Freddy became an undercover agent for the federal government, and Alice moved to Florida to wait for Freddy. The only people who have not changed up to this point are Sabien (still an overworked homicide detective) and Trixie (who is still... Trixie).
  • Once an Episode:
    "The name's Justice. Jack Justice."
    "The name's Dixon. Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective."
    "35 dollars a day, plus expenses."
  • Papa Wolf: Sabien has gained this reputation over his time as a cop. Bad guys on the street know that if you hurt young girls, Sabien will come for you. "The Albatross" highlights this most strongly, as he simply can not let go of a case concerning the murder of a young, pregnant black girl, goes to Jack and Trixie for help when he's taken off the case, and comes within a hair's breadth of killing the man responsible once he's identified. A few episodes earlier, the narration mentioned Sabien had a teenage daughter.
  • Pen Name: The opening identifies the author of the series as "Martin Bracknell," but the stories are actually written by Gregg Taylor.
  • Private Detective: Jack and Trixie.
  • Private Eye Monologue: The narrative normally jumps back and forth between Trixie and Jack. Occasionally, if one of the other recurring characters has a Day in the Limelight (or Jack and/or Trixie are for some reason unavailable for narration), they will get in on the act as well. Even King, the office dog, has had his day.
  • Put on a Bus: "Button Down" Theo in season 10, and "Freddy the Finger" Hawthorne in season 11.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • It doesn't matter how big of a fish you are in the pond, bullets work just as well on you as they would anybody.
    • Trixie is the love 'em and leave 'em type, and constantly threatens to shoot people. In "The One That Got Away", we learn that she breaks up with her suitors by way of abuse. And bottles to the head. And gunfire. There's almost no humor about this revelation, and Theo points out she's clearly afraid of opening herself up to a man. Turns out the Femme Fatale routine ain't exactly good for long-term emotional satisfaction.
  • Really Gets Around: Trixie is sort of hinted to, and certainly advertises herself as this, though anything that may or may not happen between her and the numerous men she flirts with and gets the phone numbers of stays firmly off-screen.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: While he's never actually gotten anywhere with her (yet), Button-Down Theo does maintain a romantic interest in Trixie. She doesn't mind that so much because he doesn't press the issue beyond the occasional flirt, and because he's a "useful contact" at Braithwaite's, a rival, and much larger, detective agency. And then he gets married. Even though Trixie broke up with him, violently, she's not sure what to feel about the news.
  • Rule of Drama: The city seems to have an awful lot of organized crime for our heroes to interfere with, and never the same family twice. One could argue that it's just the regular shuffle, except that they usually seem to be well-established.
  • Running Gag:
    • Jack bantering with the client over coffee. That is to say, about the coffee.
    • A client asking if Jack and Trixie are together, to which she invariably reacts with disgust.
    • Jack or Trixie describing the office as "the mighty World Headquarters of Justice and Dixon investigations" or some variation of, such as "palatial headquarters".
    • Some female client, played by Clarissa der Nederlanden Taylor, flirting with Jack.
    • Someone calling Trixie "Miss Dixon", to which she responds "Trixie, please!"
  • Sarcasm Failure: The third act of "Now Who's the Dummy" has Jack and Trixie in the middle of a four way argument between two ventriloquists and their dummies. The puppet named Simple is the most reasonable person in the room, one of the ventriloquists pulls two guns in the course of the confrontation and even the other puppet gets in on the action. The detectives can only lampshade the sheer absurdity of it all.
    Trixie: The puppet has a cap gun tied to his hand!
    Jack: The nervous guy with the real gun is taking this seriously.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: A few of their clients, a few of the people they face, even Trixie in one episode. How successful they are can vary from episode to episode.
  • Share Phrase: One of the Decoder Ring Theater share phrases that sees more mileage in Black Jack Justice than Red Panda Adventures is "It's probably true, but you still shouldn't say it." Most often used someone makes a comment about another character that is both very unflattering and difficult to argue with.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Jack was in Infantry during the war, as well as a number of the other men in the city; this helps the duo gather information from other veterans of the war, and it also helped toughen him up from his early days. However, Jack doesn't like to talk about the war to those who have never seen it. Even his monologues don't go into much detail on the topic.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Most episodes have a least one reference to the detective, particularly "The Problem of the Perplexing Pastiche" which was set in roughly the same time and location. Of course, it was a Dream Sequence brought on by exhaustion from lack of sleep due to the current case, and it kept getting interrupted by the telephone.
  • Shout-Out: The "35 dollars a day, plus expenses" line, is a direct reference to a similar line by Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. Except it was 25 bucks back then, in the 30s. Must be post-war inflation.
  • Spanner in the Works: In "Justice For Some", the plot is to invite known thieves to an event to be fall guys for the theft an heirloom necklace. It fails because one thief had legitimately reformed, another was on a whole other floor casing the joint's artwork, and Jack managed to grab the third when the lights went out to facilitate the robbery. This leaves the actual culprit the only one in a position to actually take the necklace.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: The majority of Jack and Trixie's conversations are either this, or back-and-forth banter where they're both snarking at a third party. Clients and police officers tend to react with confusion, annoyance, or, in Sabien's case, barely-concealed rage and usually an order to quit the circus act.
  • Stalker With a Crush: In "Justice and the Deluge", a man hires Jack and Trixie to find his runaway sister, Mary, and let her know she can come home. Details about the story leave Trixie suspicious, and when they track down Mary, they learn the man is obsessively in love with her. He ruined her reputation when she shot him down, causing her father to throw her out. He followed her from city to city when she ran away from him instead of to him, as he hoped.
  • Stock Phrase: At least once in every single episode, the agency rate is mentioned. ("thirty-five dollars a day, plus expenses") Later, this is increased to $39.95/Day, plus expenses.
  • Tap on the Head: Frequently being on the receiving end is how Jack earned his nickname, "Black Jack," before the War.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sergeant Nelson can come across as this, though he does occasionally display Hidden Depths. His glaring idiocy is a source of frequent frustration to the more competent characters, but in an actual fight he's the best marksman of all of them.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Before the war, Jack would get sapped a lot, enough to earn him his nickname. After the war, it became much harder to get the drop on him.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: His passion for coffee nonwithstanding, Jack loves beef. He doesn't get to eat it very often, but he treasures the occasions when he does.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Jack and Trixie are a mix of this and Platonic Life-Partners. They're constantly sniping at, insulting, and trying to get the better of one another, and yet they stay together as partners and, when the chips are down, have each other's backs. In "The Road to Hell", an episode consisting almost entirely of Jack and Trixie bickering, Jack unwittingly hits a raw nerve by commenting on the size of Trixie's hands. He backpedals immediately upon realizing he actually hurt her, then goes on to note that had he known about this particular weakness he'd have used it at least once years ago.
    • Both of them collectively have over the course of the series developed this kind of relationship with Sabien. At one point Jack Lampshades this, musing that some days Sabien wants to get him arrested, other days they go out fishing together.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: In The Road To Hell, Jack finally discovers Trixie's weakness! She's real insecure about her hands looking "mannish", and sounds genuinely hurt and worried for possibly the first time in the entire series.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The name of the city Jack and Trixie call home has never been mentioned.
    • Since the writers and performers are based in Toronto, Ontario, there is a possibility the city is in Canada, but the series has kept this vague enough to be based anywhere in the north-central part of the North American continent (within the temperate climate area, but not as far as the permafrost).
    • So far, "The City" does not refer to Chicago, New York (whether it refers to the city or state is unclear), Ann-Arbor, Albany, Detroit, Ohio, and Arizona, as these places were explicitly mentioned in dialogue and/or monologue, describing where people or groups of people, are, came from, or went to.
    • Episode 47 ("To the Manor Born") makes a direct reference to the protagonists being within the USA, but since the protagonists are well outside the city during this episode, it's not certain if "The City" is a US city, or if it is close to the US/Canadian border. No mention of border crossings strengthen the possibility of a US city.
    • Episode 69 very explicitly places "The City" in the United States.
  • Whole Plot Reference: A few episodes are re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes stories.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Averted. Jack and Trixie both have very strong alpha personalities; this causes a a lot of friction that prevents any romantic connection from forming. So much so, that both they and others have commented that they'd be more likely to kill one another.
  • With Friends Like These...: You'd think that Jack and Trixie would have gone back to working solo, considering just how much they seem to dislike one another, but they still remain partners. Of course, they also seem to enjoy bantering with one another, so it can sometimes be difficult to separate actual spite from cynical humor.
  • World of Snark: Basically, in this series you're either a Deadpan Snarker, a constant target for Deadpan Snarkers, or both.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Jack and Trixie are often hired to "get the goods" for husbands or wives who believe their spouse is cheating on them if, heaven forbid, there are any goods to be got.