Friday, August 29, 2014

Appearing in issue #35, September 1, 2014

Title:  The missing Caddy

By Author:  John M. Floyd


Tag line:     Ms. Potts wondered: Who’d be dang fool enough to steal Miss Burnette’s car?

Police characters:   Sheriff Chunky Jones

The gist:    The sheriff and Ms. Potts were playing checkers on his office windowsill when 85-year-old Miss Burnette showed up.  Sheriff Jones grumped a little as is his nature.  Miss Burnette, a 90-pound, five-foot-tall lady, was there to report that someone had just stolen her car.  She reported that she parked her car at the curb at the drug store and left her car door open when she went in to buy a newspaper. Apparently she also left her keys in the ignition because someone jumped in and drove off.  She noted there were three males standing nearby when she parked. When one of them stole the car, the other two took off running.  Miss Burnette could not identify the thief as her eyesight is poor. Ms. Potts scribbled a note to the sheriff to call the drug store owner, while Miss Burnette rambled on about how she never really like her fancy Caddy because it had power everything; door locks, car seat, windows.  The sheriff asked her if she hated it so much maybe she didn’t want him to find it, and she told him she remembered him in Sunday school and said he asked stupid questions back then too.  The sheriff called the drug store owner and put him on speaker phone. He said he saw the three boys, even knew their names, but didn’t see the incident. Ms. Potts told the owner that ‘we’ would need their names and descriptions.  The owner described the three men (with their names); one was tall and broad shouldered, one was lanky and long legged, and one was short.

Ms. Potts knew who stole the car.

Crime scene:    Car theft in front of a drug store.

Clues:    The features on the car and the descriptions of the suspects.

Suspects:   Three teens: tall and broad shouldered, lanky and long legged, and short

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  Only a short person could jump into a car set for such a short woman as Miss Burnette and speed away without adjusting the power seat.

My two cents:    Well, good thing for the town that the sheriff has Ms. Potts.  Otherwise he would never have known to call the owner of the store where the crime occurred, nor would he have thought to ask for names and descriptions of the teens that the owner saw.  What kind of police academy turns out such morons? 

They were playing checkers on his window sill.  I don’t know what I’m more amazed at the fact that they were teetering a game board on a windowsill or that they were playing checkers.  Checkers for Pete’s sake.

Now we have two old women telling Chunky he’s stupid and slow.  Perhaps they’re right.  He put the drug store owner on speaker phone in front of civilians.  Cops don't do that.

Now here’s a good comment: This was the best non-clue clue that I’ve seen in a long time.  Floyd buried it up in the beginning and then slipped it in again at the end seamlessly. 

I’m not a fan of the Chunky/Potts string of stories because I think the characters are trite and corny and it makes for weary reading. I think you either love the Gomer Pyle gooberness thing or you don't.  But you’ve got to hand it to John, he pumps them out in a consistent manner.  His writing is smooth, his pace is good, and his characters are steady.  He peppers in small town colloquialisms to cement the scene. Those factors, along with his great clue, earn him 4 stars for this week’s story.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

101 Things

An Author Needs to Know

About the Police and the Law

When is a borrowed car a stolen car?

It's pretty simple.  Basically when the owner says so.  

If it's a rental car and it's overdue and you haven't notified the rental company and they call the police...congratulations, you are now driving a stolen car.  If your boyfriend, friend or neighbor wants their car back that you have borrowed and you don't bring it back.  Bingo.  Stolen vehicle. Avoid this problem by respecting the owner's wishes and keep in contact with him/her/rental company.  

Just a note on letting people use your car.  Be careful.   What if...just what if...someone uses your car and drops a baggie of marijuana on the floor?  I  mean do you REALLY know this neighbor or co-worker that you let borrow your vehicle?  Now, let's say you get pulled over for a bad taillight.  The cop looks in your car when he's at the window getting your license and registration and he spies it.  And trust me, they're looking.  Guess what?  You're in possession of narcotics.  

 In my younger days when I was dumb and full of beans a guy left a half a joint in my car ashtray.  I know what you're thinking.  Ashtray?  Just how old is Jody anyway?  This was back when the cops would just take it and throw it away and send you home.  But nowadays even drug residue, the scrapings off the baggie, count.  I was also with a guy once (different guy) who, when I got pulled over for speeding, got scared and stashed the drugs under his seat.  I didn't know they were there.  I didn't even know he did cocaine.  Boy...I sure can pick 'em, huh?  No wonder my mother got gray hair early.

So back to the original theme, be careful when you lend your car and be careful when you borrow a car.  Best not to borrow at all IMO.  Oh, and try to hang out with a better class of people, okay? :)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Appearing in issue #34, August 25, 2014

Title:  The late Mr. Dobbs

By Author:  Shannon Fay


Tag line:     Someone had decided that the wealthy investor’s time was up!

Police characters:   Detectives Sonja Nager and Ryan Burnell.

The gist:    Mr. Dobbs, a wealthy man, was found dead by his nephew, Connor, who had had a 9:30 appointment to see him at his office. The nephew, who called the police, claimed he arrived and found his uncle lying on the floor, and the office was a mess. He said someone had hit him on the head hard (yep, that’s what he said), and while checking his uncle for a pulse the nephew got blood on his shirt.  Detective Burnell admonished Connor, telling him he should not have touched the body.  Connor retorted that he wasn’t exactly thinking about a defense when he checked to see if his uncle was dead.  When asked why he was there to see his uncle, he claimed he was just visiting to catch up.  The police told the nephew that they had spoken to Dobbs’s lawyer and was told Mr. Dobbs recently learned he had a terminal disease and was planning on changing his will.  This looked bad for the nephew who might be cut out of the new will.

The detectives viewed the crime scene more closely. The furniture was overturned and papers scattered all around.   Post-it notes were stuck everywhere with dates and notes on them. Mr. Dobbs seemed to be forgetful.  A battery operated mantel clock was found on the floor.  The battery had come loose, and the time on the face read 9:45.  As the detectives were looking around, a woman rushed into the office.  She paled at the sight of the body on the floor. She said she was Dobbs’s secretary.  She claimed she had come in late this morning because she was sick earlier. She said Dobbs was a kind and sweet man, and he had planned to leave all his money to charity.  She told police that both Dobbs’s nephews were unhappy with that news. (Ah, the plot thickens.  Two nephews.)  She also informed them that both nephews were scheduled to meet with their uncle today, one at 9:00 (Sam) and one at 9:30 (Connor).  

An alarm began to beep, and the secretary explained it was Dobbs’s wristwatch, and that he always set it to remind him to go the gym.  Detective Nager pressed the stop button and noticed that the watch read 11:35 but the actual time was 11:05.  The secretary told her that Dobbs always set his clocks fast because he often ran late.

Detective Nager knew who killed Dobbs.

Crime scene:    Mr. Dobbs’s office. (Don’t you hate that double S situation with names?  I never use a character name that ends with an S just because of that.)

Clues:    The appointment times and the clock times.

Suspects:  The two nephews.  

Red herrings:    One nephew had blood on his shirt.

Solution:  When the mantel clock fell and broke it read 9:45 but it was really only 9:15, the time when the first nephew, Sam, would have been in the office.

My two cents:    Well…let’s see, where do I start? 

Begin rant.

 1)  Another rich man who doesn’t have security in his office building.  Not realistic. 

2) The police called and talked to the man’s lawyer.  Really?  How did that happen?  They find a body and they call his lawyer?  Lawyers don’t give out that kind of info on their clients.  Attorney/client privilege.   So, not happening.

 3)  The police tell this info to the nephew.  Uh-uh.  Police don’t give out details like that.  That would give someone time to form a convincing alibi/story for themselves.

 4) Mr. Dobbs was quite forgetful and had lots of Post-its everywhere.  What am I missing here?  Who cares?  He’s got a secretary to take care of all that.  Waste of words here.

  5) This man who had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness still goes to the gym.  Okay, maybe he loved working out.  But me…if I’m going to die…I’m eating cake and ice cream.  By the gallon. Oh, and drinking will be going on.  Lots of drinking.

6)  The police yelled at Connor for checking on his uncle.  Puuullleeze.  And if the man had not been dead, and Connor never checked on him and then later Dobbs died… who would be to blame, huh?  It would take a pretty cold person to look at a relative all bloody on the floor and just say eww and call the police.  Not believable.

7)  The place was tossed.  Why?  The nephews knew their uncle was leaving his money to charity.  They knew he had a lawyer.  What is this guy looking for?  A copy of the will?  Is he that dumb to think the lawyer doesn’t have the master? 

8)  I’m not a fan of the train left the station at 4:30 and was headed east to Dallas at 45 miles an hour, and another train left Houston heading north at 4:55, traveling at 40 miles per hour…so what did Mrs. Smith have for breakfast, eggs or donuts?   But beside the fact that you have to write up a timeline to solve this tragedy (and I don’t mean the man’s death) what was the murder weapon?  I guess we don’t need to know.  It was probably the mantel clock but it got cut and is at this very moment sitting on Johene’s floor, still all bloody and stuff.

9)  I’m not sure why Connor lied about why he was there.  Both nephews knew about the will change.  This wasn’t just a “catching up” visit.  He had scheduled an appointment.  Maybe that was a red herring.

10)  Was it just a coinkydink that both nephews had appointments with their uncle today a half hour apart and Connor didn’t know about it? 

11)  One has to wonder why the nephews came to their uncle’s office to talk to him.  Doesn’t he have a home for family visits? And they had to schedule an appointment to see this ‘kind and sweet man’?

12)  What kind of kind and sweet man cuts his relatives out of his will for no apparent reason?  Maybe his terminal illness was a brain tumor that made him loopy.

Lucky 13)  So what’s the motive here?   There was a murder here all right, but it wasn’t the one in the story.  This author ignored all the problems, paid no attention to common sense, and just dumped all these loose parts together and let them hang.  And it sold.  Go figure.

End rant.

Too many dumb things going on in this story.  I think this is my first “1 star”.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

101 Things

An Author Needs to Know

About the Police and the Law

Where did the Miranda rights come from?

"Miranda's full name was Ernesto Miranda. He was arrested in 1963 after a kidnapping and sexual assault in Phoenix, Arizona. After two hours of interrogation without access to a lawyer, he signed a written confession to the crimes. When the case went to trial, the court allowed the confession into evidence, even though Miranda had not been told of his rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present. In a 5-4 decision on Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled that the confession could not be used in court, as it was obtained without due process.

The standard list of rights now read to a person upon being arrested are known as the Miranda rights, as they are taken from, and required by, this decision.

 The decision states: The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.

This did not end up helping Miranda himself. On being tried again, this time without the confession being used in court, he was again found guilty, and served eleven years in prison. He was later stabbed to death in a bar fight. The suspected killer was read his Miranda rights, opted to remain silent, and fled to Mexico. The murder case was closed."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Appearing in issue #33, August 18, 2014

Title:  The missing bracelet

By Author:  Marianna Heusler


Tag line:     Ms. Hopper liked being a detective even less than chaperoning teenage girls!

Police characters:   None.

The gist:    Samantha announced that her new gold bracelet is missing.  She is with a group of three other teens at the zoo on a class trip.  She claimed she took it off in the washroom by the lion house because the clasp was loose.  She set it on the sink and when a mouse scurried by the girls all fled and she forgot all about her birthday bracelet.  It was a hot day but one of the girls wore a long sleeved shirt, claiming she had skin allergies to the sun.  Samantha went back to the washroom while the girls waited and drank water, but did not find her bracelet.  The janitor had closed the door and put up yellow tape when they left because he was going to work on the clogged drains, but he let Samantha back in to look for it.  He claimed he never saw it.  The three girls emptied out their backpacks and pockets but no bracelet.  Ms. Hopper knew where it was.

Crime scene:    Zoo.

Clues:    One girl was wearing long sleeves on a hot day.

Suspects:   Well, it can’t be the two girls who emptied their backpacks and pockets…unless one of them swallowed it.  So that leaves the janitor or the girl with long sleeves.   Or, of course, Ms. Hopper.

Red herrings:    A small one.  The janitor claimed he never saw the bracelet and that the drains were clogged, but then he tells Ms. Hopper maybe the bracelet fell down the drain and he says the bracelet is long gone.  So which is it, Mr. Janitor?

Solution:  The girl with the long sleeves is wearing the bracelet.

My two cents:    It could have been the janitor.  He didn’t empty out his pockets.  

Instead of wearing long sleeves in the heat and calling attention to yourself, as opposed to rolling them up like a normal person, why doesn’t anyone ever think to stick the goods in their bra?   Just an observation.  That’s where I’d put it.  Not on my wrist.

This story was laid out well and read well.  There were many spots that were “show not tell” moments. Everyone was cranky from the heat, even the janitor, but the author never said what the temperature was or even told us it was hot.  She used deep POV to get the message across. The author had the girls collapsing on the ground, reaching for water bottles, and fanning themselves with zoo maps.  One girl even suggested waiting in the reptile house because it was cool in there. Another girl complained her tank top was sticking to her. The janitor had perspiration stains on his shirt and his face was red.  Very nice deep POV work on this story.

The title was lame.  The missing bracelet?  That couldn’t have been the author’s choice.  After turning in such a well constructed story, I doubt she would fall apart at the title.

It was kind of obvious where the bracelet was but I still enjoyed the journey.   I’m going to give it five stars for the good writing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

101 Things

An Author Needs to Know

About the Police and the Law

What is criminal mischief?

Criminal mischief is causing damage to another person's property and doing it willfully and maliciously.  That's a good word; malicious.  What does it mean?  You are malicious when you wrongfully, intentionally, without legal justification or excuse do harm to someone else or to their property, and you do it knowing that it will be harmful.  So a prank gone bad is not criminal mischief.    

What is willful?  That means intentionally, knowingly and purposefully.

 Examples of criminal mischief would be an angry woman setting her man's car on fire,  throwing rocks through windows, spray painting graffiti, or slashing tires.  If the dollar amount of the damage reaches a certain level, the crime becomes a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor.  Adding the element of hatred, such as defacing a Jewish cemetery, changes the charge to a 'hate crime' and  ups the punishment.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Appearing in issue #32, August 11, 2014

Title:  Cool in a crisis

By Author:  Joan Dayton

Tag line:     The thief targeted an easy victim.  Or so he thought!

Police characters:   Chief Wagner

The gist:    Ms. McGillicuddy, head librarian, spoke to a group of book club ladies about all the home invasions that had hit the news in a neighboring town.  She said the police chief informed her, and asked her to pass along, that he believed the thief was targeting their town next.  It was noted that most people in the town don’t lock their doors.  The thief tended to case the neighborhood, see who was home, who lived alone, and then broke in and stole cash hidden in odd places.  He never took TVs or large items, which is why neighbors might never see anything suspicious.  So far no one had been hurt.  And no one had actually ever seen the thief, so it wasn’t known if it was a man or woman.  Two of the ladies, Ruth Ann and Maribel (friends since third grade), took in the info and noted that they were always out at the same times each week; Wednesdays at the book club, Thursdays it was lunch at Joanne’s Diner, and Saturdays it was the movie matinee.

When Ruth Ann got home that day she surprised a man dressed in workman’s clothes in her kitchen.  She noted he was on the small side and didn’t appear to be armed.  He had been rifling through a drawer where she kept her grocery money.  “Hey, you’re not supposed to be back yet,” he said.  The phone rang.  The man told her not to pick it up. She thought fast and told him if she didn’t her friend would be worried, so he let her answer the phone.   It was Ms. McGillicuddy who claimed she was calling all the book club ladies to see if everyone was okay.  Ruth Ann told her she was fine but when she called her friend Mable to please tell her she couldn’t make lunch tomorrow. 

Within five minutes four patrol cars pulled up to Ruth Ann’s house, summoned by Ms. McGillicuddy.  How did she know something was amiss?

Crime scene:    Ruth Ann’s home.

Clues:    The ladies’ schedules and the name Mable.

Suspects:   Unknown.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  When Ruth Ann asked Ms. McGillicuddy to give a message to Mable, Ms. McG recognized the warning.  Ruth Ann would never call her friend the wrong name and they never missed Thursday’s lunch.

My two cents:    The thief said Ruth Ann wasn’t supposed to be home yet, but the book club was over.  So…she was supposed to be home. That part didn’t work for me.  I think a quick line about the library meeting breaking up a bit early should have been included to keep the timeline straight.  Ruth Ann calling her old friend by the wrong name was a great move on her part.  But Ms. McG telling the police she knew it was a plea for help because these ladies never miss lunch is a bit lame. 

The story said within five minutes the police got there.  Why was the thief still there?  Having tea, was he?   He had his money, he could have warned Ruth Ann to not call the police for twenty minutes or he’d be back, or some such threat, and dosey-doed out of there.  Five minutes is a long time.  Don’t think so?  Try standing on one foot for five minutes and see just how long it is.

All in all not a bad solve-it-yourself.  I don’t pay much attention to names in stories so I didn’t catch the wrong name clue.  I thought maybe Ms. McG got to thinking that something might be off because Ruth Ann would probably not have someone else call her friend to cancel lunch.  I know – that was a stretch, but remember I didn’t catch the name.   For a minute there I thought maybe Ms. McG was involved and had told the thief when people would be home from the book club meeting.  I thought her call was a little suspicious, sort of checking to see if all went well or not.

4 stars because of the timeline thingy.  Can you tell I got tired of typing McGillicuddy? 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

101 Things

An Author Needs to Know

About the Police and the Law

What is the difference between
assault and battery?

An assault is an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to another.   It must be coupled with the apparent ability to commit the act and in doing so create a fear that violence is imminent.   Need an example?   Pulling a gun in a liquor store.  It is intentional, it is a threat to do violence to another, the perp has the ability to pull the trigger, and it puts one in great fear that violence is imminent.  The gun situation would be assault with a dangerous weapon, which carries an enhanced penalty if proven. 
You can assault someone verbally.  Screaming at a driver during road rage is assault if it puts the person in fear for their safety.  Assault it an arrestable offence. 

A battery is an unlawful touching, a touching against one's will.  You've seen altercations in bars where they start shoving each other?  That's battery.  The woman gets angry and slaps the guy?  That's a battery, but most men won't report it.  Just putting your hands on a police officer will get you a charge of battery on a law enforcement officer also known as
Bat/LEO.  Never touch a cop. 

Assault and battery are generally misdemeanors but a battery becomes a felony with the touching causes serious bodily harm, which generally speaking is defined as any injury that seriously interferes with the person's health or comfort, and that is long-lasting rather than short-lived.  Some examples of this would be: paralysis, loss of limb, loss of functioning limb, broken bones, head, neck and spine injuries, serious cuts or burns, and scarring or disfigurement. 


Friday, August 1, 2014

Appearing in issue #31, August 4, 2014

Title:  Playing a part

By Author:  Mary Ann Joyce


Tag line:     The detectives discovered that not all the drama at the community theater happened on stage!

Police characters:   Detective Emma Logan and her partner Zach Jones.

The gist:    The police were called to the Palace Theater on Monday when it was discovered that all the proceeds from the weekend shows was missing.  The theater manager told police the money from the ticket sales and the concession was gone. He told them this loss will ruin them.  He informed them that last night the theater had hosted the Caribou Club, big spenders and big partyers (my spell check hates this word). While there Det. Logan noticed actors on stage rehearsing.  The scene included a lot of pushing and shouting.  The manager told police although it was acting, the two men (Jason and Will) hated each other.  Jason was a terrible flirt and even made a play for the other’s wife.

Det. Logan asked the manager to run through last night’s procedure.  He told her after the performance they all celebrated the sold-out weekend, and then everyone pitched in to clean and close and they all got out around midnight. Will organized the cleanup crew, Jason and the manager counted cash, sorted it, wrote receipts and then Jason put the money in the safe around midnight.  Jason left at that point. Will locked up and drove the manager home because he had had too much to drink.  Usually the money gets deposited in the morning but because of a hangover the manager came in late and intended to get to that deposit later in the afternoon.   When he arrived, Will was waiting on stage to start rehearsal and Jason was in the reception area signing for some packages he had ordered.  He added that Jason always flirted with the mail lady and she appeared to have fallen for him.  He noted that Jason, the more handsome of the two, was the actor that brought in the crowd.  The men took the stage and the manager opened the safe.  He claimed no one but he had the combination.

The detectives reviewed the security footage and did not find anyone else entering the theater.  They spoke to Jason first.  He concurred that he put the money in the safe and then left shortly before midnight.  He said he checked his watch because he had a late date, and that she could verify his whereabouts.  Will told the police that he had a dislike for Jason and that while Will was sweeping and putting away props, Jason was counting money and pouring drinks for the manager.  He said he saw him place the money in the safe.

Crime scene:    The Palace Theater.

Clues:    Only the manager had the combination.

Suspects:  The two actors and the manager.

Red herrings:    The fact that the Caribou Club men had the reputation as drinkers and partyers made me think one of them had maybe come back.

Solution:  Jason did put the money in the safe, but he didn’t lock it.  Then he came in early, removed the money bag, and gave it to the mail carrier, his partner in crime.  Jason made sure the manager would have a hangover and get in late. When the mail carrier learned that Jason had a date after the show, and it wasn’t her, she ratted him out.

My two cents:   Bottom line: Never mess with a woman’s heart. Basically this story hung together and the pacing was good. The author had three suspects and a bit of a red herring.  In the beginning of the story the marquee read: Easy Money…Best show of the season. The author brought that back around at the end when she said, “This is the best show of the season.”  Nicely done. The tag line fit the story and the title was good.

 What is missing here is a motive.  Was someone’s car payments late?  Did someone have a gambling problem?  Why would Jason, the popular actor who brought in the crowd, ruin his own theater?   Perhaps another theater had been trying to get Jason to work for them, so he didn’t care?  We need a motive.

Little stuff:  If I had written this I might have added that Jason had a late date with a new woman, or one of the girls at the theater, just to be clear he wasn’t with the mail lady.  This might work to add the element of jealousy to the mix.

     Although the police work was good, what tipped off the detective wasn’t clear.  Perhaps because Jason poured the drinks that got the manager drunk?  Everyone was celebrating, so that didn’t stand out to me. Both men were counting money and drinking.

      They wrote ‘receipts’?   Deposit slips maybe?  I’m not sure what receipt means. But then I’ve never worked in a theater so maybe I’m not in the loop.

4 stars.  Can’t give it five without a motive.