Title: Catching a ride
By Author: Arthur Vidro
Appearing in issue #36, September 9, 2013
Tag line: The men in the car soon discovered that the hitchhiker was one smart cookie!
Police characters: None.
The gist: A man is starting a job tomorrow in another city. He falls asleep in the terminal and misses his flight, which was a short one as these cities are kind of close, but his bags had already been loaded and are gone. He has very little money so can’t rent a car but wants to get to his destination to start work tomorrow. He decides to hitchhike. Two shady guys pick him up. He can’t sit in the back seat because there’s ‘stuff’ back there and what looks to be a rifle butt. The guys make him sit in the middle of them in the front seat. He gets in the car because he wants the ride, but he’s nervous and doesn’t speak to them. The guys are scruffy, unshaven and wearing dirty clothes. They seem edgy and nervous. A few miles down the road the state police pull them over, guns drawn. These guys are bank robbers. The money is in the back seat. Our man tells the cops he’s a hitchhiker and not with them. The two bad guys tell the cops our man is lying and he is, in fact, the master mind. One guy leers and says, “He’s the guy who planned this.” Our guy tells the cops to ask the two men one question. They ask it. The cops let our guy go. So … your mystery this week is to figure out what the one question is.
Crime scene: On the road, in a car.
Clues: He doesn’t speak to the two men.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: The question is “What’s your master mind’s name?” They hadn’t asked our man his name and he never gave it.
My two cents: Okay, this one is pretty lame.
Here’s where it’s a benefit to know what you’re talking about before you write your story. Many, many, many times I have heard in court that the bad guys don’t know each other. They seldom know each other’s last names. They sometimes know a first name, but almost always just call each other by some street name. The state police (which was capped in the story but should not have been) know that and that wouldn’t convince them our man wasn’t part of the robbery because the two doofusses didn’t know his name.
How about a copy of his airline ticket to prove who he was and where he had been before they picked him up? His bags went on ahead. He had his airline ticket on him with his baggage claim tags stapled on it.
I had to laugh at the characterization of the bad guys. Dirty. Unshaven. Scruffy. Truly not your typical bank robber. More like a drug buyer.
I question the use of the word ‘leer’. To leer is to look lasciviously. Huh? Maybe the author meant ‘jeer’? I'm not a big fan of writers having folks jeer, snort, scream, gush, simper, or sneer out their words. It's lazy writing. All telling and no showing.
Why the two guys want to involve this hitchhiker makes no sense. It’s not like they’re saying they didn’t do it, they did. They admit robbing the bank but tell the cops our man is the ring leader. They got pulled over very quickly after picking our man up. They didn’t have time to have a fight with him or get annoyed with him in any way that would warrant them wanting to get him in trouble. It just doesn’t work.
And lastly, no bank robber with the guns in the car and a bag of money in the back seat is going to pick up a hitchhiker during his getaway.