Friday, December 5, 2014

Appearing in issue #49, December 8, 2014

Title:  Stretching the truth
By Author:  Emma Courtice
Tag line:    The sergeant wondered what would cause a good kind to make big mistakes!
Police characters:   Sgt. Norman Bain
The gist:    A teenage boy was in the police station accused of stealing a car and joy riding, and crashing it in front of the police department.  The sounds of a crash brought the cops outside only to see three kids running away.  One boy, Joey, wasn’t as fast as the others and Officer Esposito grabbed him.   When asked why he did it, the teen said his team had won the big game tonight and it put them all in a good mood that got out of hand.   When asked who the other boys were, Joey stubbornly shook his head and said, “Look, it was my fault.  It was my idea.  I crashed the car.”  Joey’s father was called and was on his way into the station.  While they were waiting for his dad to come the cops started talking about the game and the school.  They noted that although Joey was tall, 6’5”, he didn’t play ball very well, not like some of the other boys who were in line to receive basketball scholarships.  It was mentioned that Officer Esposito’s son was on the team also.  They went outside to examine the car.  It was an older sedan.  The front end had been crumpled pretty badly.  All four doors were standing open.  The ignition had obviously been tampered with.  While looking in the front with their flashlights, Sgt. Bain saw something shiny under the driver’s seat.  He eased back the seat and found a crumpled beer can.  Joey’s dad arrived and said he was really surprised that his son did it because he was a good boy.
Sgt. Bain went back inside and asked Joey who was really driving the car.
How did he know Joey didn’t do it?
Crime scene:    In front of the police station.
Clues:    The beer can scene.
Suspects:   Joey. 
Red herrings:    Esposito’s son being on the team.  It made you wonder if he was the driver.
Solution:  Sgt. Bain knew that Joey was too tall to fit into the driver’s seat the way it was found pushed forward. He was also suspicious of Officer Esposito running down Joey, as Esposito was the least fit officer in the department, yet he managed to run down a fit teenager who played ball. It turns out that one of Joey’s teammates, a best friend of Esposito’s son, had begged Joey to take the blame to protect the real driver’s scholarship.
My two cents:    Well, I was quite excited with this story.  At first.  
But I’ve got questions.
 We knew Joey was lying to protect someone’s scholarship.  And we knew the seat wasn’t pushed back far enough for a 6’5” boy to drive.  Okay, so far so good. I’m still happy.
 But where in the world did all this Esposito info come from?  A best friend of a cop’s son?   What’s that got to do with the price of bananas?  And what does that have to do with Esposito being the least fit officer in the department?  And how would we know that?  It wasn’t in the story.  And is the author trying to tell us that Esposito never really ran anyone down, that the boys negotiated with him in the street as to who he should say he caught? And if that were true, shouldn’t Officer Esposito be in big trouble?   And if there were four car doors open, why are there only three boys running away? 
It’s quite unfair to leave out details in the story and then spring them on us in the solution. I think this story suffered from Red Pen Madness.
This story was heading for five stars… until it fell apart in the solution.  The writing part of this story was superb.  It read very well, and was an interesting little story.  It would have been better if the driver had been Esposito’s son.


Susan said...

This story started out well, but I had the same response about the ending and solution. I was sort of waiting for a bad cop moment where Espisito was in on the coverup. I didn't understand the inclusion of the son's best friend and extra info, either.

bettye griffin said...

I missed this story. I did guess why Joey wasn't the driver from your synopsis. It does make more sense for the officer's son to be the culprit. My guess is that WW didn't want a story about a dirty police officer...

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Bettye. That's an insightful comment considering what's been happening with our police these days. Perhaps it got cut apart at the last minute and in the rush it didn't gel well.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Susan. I know, right? It just fell apart at the end. Too bad, it was going well. And there was some interesting writing in there. Not the usual drivel.

Mary Jo said...

Yes, that is a very sloppy Solution and probably was not original with the author.

So what is the penalty for stealing a car for the purpose of joyriding? I think Old Stretch might serve time in jail. Then, too, Esposito might be looking for another job.

Jody, I thought you might address the consequences in your review.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo.
Joyriding is taking a car without intending to keep it. In contrast a person who steals a car (grand theft auto) does not intend to return it to the owner. Auto theft is a more serious crime than joyriding. A person who takes a joyride and damages the vehicle or other property, or causes injury to people, may be responsible for restitution (paying for damage or medical costs caused by the crime). As these were teenagers, I’m pretty sure it will be a misdemeanor, a lesser crime, and no one will get jail time. Most likely, if a young person doesn’t have a criminal history, they put them on probation for a year, make them pay restitution, and do community service. All this is handled in juvenile court. After the year’s term is up, they expunge the record, wipe it clean, so the person has no criminal record to carry into adulthood. It may, however, affect the kid’s chances at that basketball scholarship. That’s a school committee decision, not a legal one.

The boy who lied to help his friend will get charged with giving false information to the police while they were investigating a crime. He will probably get probation as well.

Now the cop who lied (if he did) will be charged as an adult for giving false information and maybe even aiding and abetting a crime. He may or may not get jail time but he’s sure to get fired.

Elizabeth said...

And then, what about the car that got hit? I mean, the accident happened right in front of the police station, so where was the other car?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Elizabeth. The story didn't mention another car. It just said the boys crashed it. I'm assuming it was a tree or a parking column or a sign. The front end had damage.

This story had a lot of problems.

Chris said...

I agree, it's a complete no-no to spring additional information in at the solution to the story and cheat the reader of the chance to work it out for themselves. I suspect this was down to some ill advised editing rather than the writer leaving it out in the first place. But who knows? Shame because otherwise it was an enjoyable read, although we have had another story where the position of the car seat was the give-away clue not so long ago. Feelings of deja vu again.

Wish the author would drop by and tell us how much was changed.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. I've seen the name Emma Courtice quite often on these stories. If you Google the name ... nothing. Not on FaceBook either. Not on Amazon. I didn't try LinkedIn but I don't think Ms C is very active on the Internet.

I remember that other 'seat position' story, too. It doesn't seem that long ago, although the weeks do zip by.

Mary Ann said...

I agree. I liked the story but the solution was one we've seen before. Many times before.

bettye griffin said...

Add me to the ones who've read that recent car seat position mystery...