Friday, March 20, 2015

Appearing in issue #12, March 23, 2015

Title:  Kidnapped!

By Author:  Kendra Yoder


Tag line:   Sergeant Miller could only hope the victim was sharp enough to outwit the kidnapper!  

Police characters:   Sgt. Miller, Officer Polasky

The gist:    The alleged victim was the college-aged son of Doc Brennan.  The police had received tips with regard to a vehicle description and a partial license plate and had identified the kidnapper as TJ Johnson, a ne-er-do-well.  TJs address was a small cabin in the woods that he had inherited two months prior.  The ransom note demanded $10,000 to be wired to an offshore bank account by midnight or “they” would knock off the kid.

When police arrived at the cabin, it appeared to be empty.  Thinking that the kidnappers fled the scene with the victim, and knowing there wasn’t much in the way of gas or food nearby, Sgt. Miller figured TJ would stop in one of the nearest towns, which would take them either north or south about 40 miles.

At the cabin Sgt. Miller noticed fresh tire tracks.  He decided to inspect the cabin looking for clues.  Inside the cabin was a mess with dirty soda cups and crumpled burger wrappers.  Sgt. Miller figured there’d be lots of fingerprints but he wasn’t too concerned, as he already had fingered TJ.   There was a mattress in one bedroom with chains connected to overhead water pipes.  This is where Sgt. Miller figured ‘they’ kept the victim.  A piece of white caught Sgt. Miller’s eye.  Under the mattress he found a monogrammed handkerchief with the initials CJB, the initials of the victim.  Sgt. Miller figured the victim left the police a clue.  There was no food in that room, but there was a deck of playing cards on the bed.  Off to the side, separate from the rest of the deck, were five cards of various suits neatly placed in a row: 3-5-10-7-3.   Officer Polasky figured it was a zip code but since zip codes only have 5 digits and phone numbers have 7, Sgt. Miller was stumped.   But only for a moment.  After viewing the cards from different angles, he knew where the kidnappers were headed.

Crime scene:    Unknown from where this kid was grabbed.  Unknown who had seen it or reported it.

Clues:    The cards.

Suspects:   Only TJ.  Yet… the story refers in several places to kidnappers and ‘they’.

Red herrings:   Perhaps the mention of an off-shore bank account would lead the reader to believe the son, who attends Princeton, might have faked his own kidnapping.  This could be a red herring, but I’m of the opinion that this wasn’t intentionally done.

Solution:  Viewing the cards upside down they spelled Eloise.  Lake Eloise was up the road.

My two cents:    Problems.  We’ve got problems. 

There were a lot of inconsistencies in this one.  Is it one kidnapper or more than one? The story started out with the police looking to pin this on TJ, but very shortly started referring to ‘kidnappers’ and ‘they’.   

If TJ kidnapped this kid, why did he chain him to the bed in his own cabin if he planned to hit the road and take him to Lake Eloise?   

Sgt. Miller figured as there was no food or gas around they must be headed to a larger area that had those resources.  If you were going to kidnap somebody and run wouldn’t you have a full tank of gas and some food for yourself?  Maybe he/they planned to stop at the side of the road and eat bark.  My point is they wouldn’t necessarily be heading towards the food/gas area.  They might be headed to a remote area where they were going to camp.

 There wasn’t food or gas around for 40 miles, yet the place is littered with burger wrappers.  That’s a long way to drive for a Big Mac.

The boy has a monogrammed handkerchief?  What kid do you know carries that around?  Maybe his grandpa would, but no college kid would.  The author needed a clue…she put one in.  But it’s not remotely believable.

There was nothing at all in the room but there was a deck of cards.  How convenient.  How did the victim get to handle the cards with his hands chained to the pipes over the bed?  With his toes?

This bum TJ has an off-shore bank account? 

Sgt. Miller saw fresh tires tracks, but no mention of footprints which might tell him how many people were involved. Okay… maybe there were none.  Maybe they hopped straight from the cabin into the car.

The police can’t enter the cabin without a search warrant, which can be obtained very quickly in a situation like this.

Officer Polasky thought the 6-digits were a zip code.  Lord save me from dumbasses.

So, let’s get to the star rating.  The clue?  Not believable in the manner it was presented.  Motive?  None mentioned.  I supposed money.  Like always.   Police work?  Not the brightest bulbs in the history of law enforcement.  Whatever clues they found in the cabin can’t be used in court.  These two officers are a defense attorney’s wet dream.   Character believability?  You have been reading my comments, right?  Pacing and good writing?   Not this time.  This one missed the mark.  This was a mess.  For the first time I want to give a story a minus star rating. 


Chris said...

Isn't it funny how we can all see things so differently. I thought this was a good little mystery. I enjoyed it.

One of the things you didn't like, Jody, was that the police kept referring to 'they' when only one suspected kidnapper was named but Miller does say, 'I know Johnson and his pals, it wouldn't surprise me if they were dumb enough...' etc. The writer doesn't really need to name all of Johnson's mates. He's the ringleader and that's all we really needed to know.

Surely the entering of the property without a warrant would be permissible if it was believed that the kidnapped person might be in there and in danger?

I thought the clue was good too. I spent several minutes trying to work it out and was satisfied with the answer. For me, this was one of the better ones.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. The story read when the police arrived at the cabin they found nobody there. So they decided to go in and look for clues as to where they might be headed. And this is where the 'I know Johnson and his pals and it wouldn't surprise me if they were dumb enough to leave a clue about where they're headed' comment came in. The 'where they're headed' to me referred to Johnson and the victim.

In the first column Det. Miller said with the plate number and the car he had been able to identify the kidnapper. Singular. And it was TJ Johnson. But then the story started using 'kidnappers'. I wondered if maybe a second bad guy had been edited out but the 's' never got cut off the word later on.

As far as the search warrant goes; yes, if the police think that someone is in danger they can crash through the door. But in this story they arrived at the cabin and found nobody there. That's when they decided to go in and look around. In real life, and I know this is just a story, but in real life once they suspected TJ they would have immediately gotten a judge to sign off on a search warrant and headed out to his property. That search warrant would include his home, his car, and any buildings on his property like a shed or a storm cellar or something. I know.. most authors don't have a clue. And this one didn't either. It didn't spoil the story for me, but it was just another thing in a long list that was off.

The idea that he chained to the ceiling yet was able to arrange a nice little line of cards on the bed was just too contrived for me. And it cracked me up that it was a 'heavy' chain. I immediately started thinking the victim could put his weight into it and pull those water pipes down in that old cabin. Also it read 'ceiling tiles had been removed exposing water pipes'. How many small cabins in the woods have you ever seen with ceiling tiles? And who has water pipes in the ceiling? Every time I look at this story I see something else whacky.

Mary Jo said...

I'm with Chris on this one, Jody. I confess I am not much of a mystery writer, so I think I read these little WW mini-mysteries the way the average reader would. I just read them the way they are...what do I know?

I certainly can understand your frustration, though. Having worked so many years in the medical field, it gives me the shudders when I see blatant mistakes or even words mispronounced in the medical dramas. They are supposed to know better.

Have you ever told the WW editors about your blog?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo.

"Have you ever told the WW editors about your blog?"

I'm sure they'd just LOVE me. That's a bear that I'm better off not poking.

Chris said...

'Who has water pipes in their ceiling?' We do! Our hot water tank is in the loft space, and pipes run off it down into the bathroom and kitchen.

Bettye Griffin said...

I thought it was a great clue that could have been used to more effect in a better written story. I didn't care for this one. Too bad.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Bettye. That type of clue has been used before but really what hasn't been used? At least the victim was a Princeton college kid so that the quick thinking and use of cards would be believable.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. In your case then the kitchen and bathroom might be opposite the wall where the bedroom was and that would work.

Our water heaters are generally in the basement, if we have one, or in a closet in the hallway, or in my case in my condo it's under the kitchen counter. If the cabin happened to be heated by hot water pipes, those are run along inside the walls by the floor. If the water heater was in the basement and you had a bathroom on the second floor, the pipes would run up the walls to the second floor. Perhaps in a larger house the reference to water pipes in the ceiling in the upstairs bedroom might be more easily believed. It was the fact that this is an old dirty (sounded like run down) cabin in the woods that made this detail stick out. To me anyway.

That and the ceiling tiles. All this could have been easily fixed by altering the location. This TJ could have lived in a dumpy apartment in a crummy neighborhood where most of the street lights are out so no one saw him bring in the victim, and where half the time the pipes are exposed because the ceilings are falling down. A writer has to pick details that match the location. This one was a fail.