Friday, September 26, 2014

Appearing in issue #39, September 29, 2014

Title:  Who did it?

By Author:  Richard Ciciarelli

Tag line:   The detective knew that one of the big shots was responsible for the body in the trunk.  But which one?   

Police characters:   Detective Anne Caves and Sgt. Bascomb

The gist:    A patrolman noticed a car parked illegally and he ticketed it.  The next day, it was still there…another ticket.  Day 3 he finally calls for a tow.  At the compound somebody ran the plate and found it belonged to Joe Quinn, a suspected drug dealer.  At that point they searched the car and found Quinn’s body in the trunk.  He had been beaten with a tire iron, which was also found in the trunk.  Word on the street was Quinn had been looking to expand his territory into his competitor’s area.  Quinn had control over the north side of town, yet he was found on the south side, Mac’s territory.  The police speculated that one of the other drug kingpins might have done it and left the body in Mac’s territory to frame him.  Sgt. Bascomb  ordered that the three (?) men be brought in for questioning tomorrow.

The first man, Sam, told Det. Caves that the police have tried to finger him before and they had never been successful.  When Det. Caves announced to the three men that it wasn’t drugs that they were investigating, it was murder, and that Quinn’s body had been found on the south side of town, all eyes turned to Mac. Mac denied he had killed Quinn and told police that Quinn had been trying to muscle in on all three of their territories, not just his.  He said, “Maybe one of them killed him and left the body on the south side just to make me look guilty.”  Man #2, Lou, asked when Quinn died.  The answer was 3-4 days ago. Mac said he was out of town in Atlantic City at that time.  Sam accused Mac of having ‘one of his boys’ do it and stuff him in the trunk.  Mac said he was an honest man who owned car dealerships.  Lou owned a construction company and said he was an honest man.  Sam told the police he was leaving and if they had anything else to say they could talk to his attorney. The other two men soon followed him out the door.

Forensics called and said they had found fingerprints on the tire iron.  Sgt. Bascomb said “If we can match them to one of those three men or to one of their associates we’ll have a case. “

Crime scene:    The trunk of a car on the south side of town.

Clues:    The police never told anyone where the body was found.

Suspects:  The three drug kings.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   Sam gave himself away when he accused Mac of having one of his boys do it and stuffing the body in a trunk.  The police had never let that piece of info out.  (Kind of a miracle really.)

My two cents:    What a lot of hooey. There are so many wrong police procedures here, I don’t think the author has ever – ever – spoken with a real cop. 

Let’s start with the title. Boring and unimaginative.  Ditto with the tag line.  You got a body in a trunk, you got big drug dealers for gawd’s sake, and that’s all you can come up with??  Please tell me that Johnene and all her staff were on vacation and that the janitor wrote that.

First of all when a patrolman sees a car and leaves a ticket, he looks up the plate at that very moment to be able to write the info on the ticket.  The cops knew from day one whose car that was.  “Somebody” at the compound ran the plates?  No, no, no.  No.  As soon as they found out it belonged to a notorious drug dealer, half the squad would have been out there poking around.

They don’t wait three days when a car has apparently been abandoned.  They contact the owner and get the story, and they give him a small window of time to get it off the road.

Would you kill somebody, put them in the trunk, and then park it in an illegal spot if you don’t want it to be found?  Duh. 

The tow company gets called.  The tow guy can’t even take the car until it is inventoried by the police.  What if it was your car and you had some expensive stuff in there?  The cops, the city, and the tow company have to be protected against lawsuits.  So the car is inventoried, everything in it is written down before it is handed over to the tow company.  Everything, one would imagine, would include a body in the trunk.  

Sgt. Bascomb had the ‘three men’ called in for questioning.  What three men?  I think something got cut here.  All of a sudden we have three men. 

The police don’t wait politely for the next day to ask suspects to come in for questioning.  Yes, come in, we’ll talk, I’ll make coffee, you bring the donuts.  So here they let them have their breakfast, read the paper, go potty, then they ring them up.  ((banging head on desk))  Police go out right then and find them.  Before they have a chance to flee.  Or make up an alibi.  Doesn’t matter if it’s 3:00 AM, the police station never sleeps.  And if you’re a suspect, neither do you.

The police would never, never, never put all three men on one room and start questioning them.  Police Academy, Interrogation 101.   Never. 

Three known drug kingpins would never show up at the police station without their lawyers.  These guys have been in the system before.  They don’t open their mouths freely.  Unless maybe there’s cake and coffee. 

Lou asked the cops when the guy died.  Suspects don’t get to ask questions. Police don’t give out information that maybe only the real killer knows.  Yet these cops are spilling it like a whore in confession.

Sgt. Bascomb said “If we can match them to one of those three men or to one of their associates we’ll have a case. “  No shit, Sherlock.  How dumb do you have to be to be on that police force?  Bascomb, is your father the Mayor?
This was terrible.  I mean it.  No stars.  Not even one.


Mary Jo said...

Jody, I have said it before and I will say it again. You may not have a Master's Degree, but the editors could certainly use your expertise. Even I picked up on some of the procedural flaws in this story thanks to your training. If WW ever ran their mysteries past you, or someone else who is knowledgeable, most of them would not see the light of day. It even appears as if they have no respect for their readers. Oh, the average American woman is so dumb, she won't know the difference. Men, too?

I think this is a shame because even at 700 words, these little crime stories could be fun, or gritty, or challenging.

Hey, all you mystery writers out there. Pay attention to Jody.

Chris said...

It wasn't great in several places, and I did groan more than once, but as I've said before these little mysteries aren't meant to be gritty, real life dramas. They are no more true to life than Jessica Fletcher or Miss Marple. You could apply the same level of procedural expertise to hugely popular shows like Starsky and Hutch, Cagney and Lacey, or any number of cop shows and they wouldn't stand the scrutiny. As I love a good whodunnit I suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the ride. You're right though, this one had a few more holes than I'm comfortable with.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. As they say, from your mouth to God's ears. :) This one was particularly riddled with errors and just plain dumbness.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris I agree to an extent that we have to suspend disbelief on stories. Otherwise we'd never enjoy things like Indian Jones or Hungar Games or Under the Dome. But I disagree about Jessica Fletcher et al. Those shows had technical advisors on the set to avoid really bad muck-ups. When one would happen, they would get tons of letters. Sure, the overall stories were sometimes out there, and they stretched things a bit, but the police procedures weren't all that terrible. All of the shows today, CSI, Castle, they all have good police work. Those are more modern stories, I know, but the TV cozies also follow along. Look at Columbo and Monk. Sometimes silly story lines, but pretty spot-on procedure-wise. Finding yourself groaning when you're reading takes you out of the story and to me it's inexcusable for an author to be so careless. It's hard to go along for the ride when you're rolling your eyes. I don't know how this one passed the EIC. Now there's a mystery. And a quandary. Maybe we should we just write dreck for WW and stop trying so hard to produce quality, entertaining, stories as they don't seem to matter.

Tamara said...

One thing I loved about both NYPD Blue and Law & Order (the early ones of the oriinal L&O) was the sarcasm, and I love yours, Jody; this review was a riot. This story was so bad it made my rejections look good. And, I agree that WW might suspend reality a bit -- but not this much.

M D'Angona said...

This just shows that there is no absolute formula to follow when submitting. I just got two rejections back from Seattle with hand written notes. One I was too technical that the "average" person wouldn't figure it out (She was correct on that, by the way) and the other she said was very good, but they just ran a similar story recently. Just poor timing, considering I submitted it about 6-8 months ago.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@M I obviously don't know their procedures, but you'd think if they had a good story but there was already something similar in the works, that they'd save it for the future. I mean there are only so many scenarios we can go through before we start repeating. I sold them a tag sale story, and that certainly isn't a fresh idea. I guess they have so much fresh material to pick from, they don't bother keeping anything.

6-8 months? They seem to be running a bit slow. I guess I'll stop looking for a response for my Aug 21st submission.

M D'Angona said...

Yes, 6-8 months. But their selection process or better yet, their rejection process doesn't seem to follow any sort of pattern either. Items I sent later, were sent back to me earlier and vice versa, all from Seattle. Sending two more out this week, hoping for a response by new year??

Jody E. Lebel said...

@M hmmmmm...maybe they DO have a save pile. At least we're getting to Seattle.