Friday, June 26, 2015

Appearing in issue #25, June 22, 2015

Title:  Stick ‘em up!

By Author:  Joyce A. Laird


Tag line:  Not everyone had a rootin’ tootin’ good ol’ time when the Wild West Festival came to town!

Police characters:   Tom Ringer, Jessica Hiller.  (Patrol officers I think.  It was never really divulged what they were aside from two people getting out of a squad car.)

The gist:  The safe at Rod & Reel Sporting Goods store had been robbed. The thief was dressed like a cowboy, with a bandana covering his face, and he took off towards the fairgrounds where a Wild West Festival was being held.  Sam, the owner, reported that besides the bandana, the thief wore a black cowboy hat, had dark eyes but he was squinting so he couldn’t really be sure, was tall and thin, and was walking funny.  When asked about the ‘funny walk’ he said he walked strange.  No other description was given.  He said the guy had a pearl-handled .45. 

One of the store’s employees, Jack, was on probation for some juvenile ‘stupidity’.  but the owner felt that Jack was not the thief.  During the police interview of Sam, Jack showed up from a visit to the probation office because he had gotten a text to check in, but when he got there it was closed. The owner of the store next door, Marjorie, came in next demanding to know why the police were there.  She came in with her manager, Frank.   Marjorie put her arm around Sam and told the officers that Sam had a heart condition and added, “hasn’t he give you enough information?”  

Frank pointed to Jack the probationer and said, as his dark eyes flashed, that he warned Sam not to hire the kid.

The cops knew who the robber was.

Crime scene:    Rod & Reel Sporting Goods store.

Clues:    Dark, flashing eyes.   How stupid is that?   How many people in this world have dark eyes?   And the store owner wasn’t even sure about that because the guy was squinting.  Ay-yi-yi. 

Suspects:   Jack the probationer, some random cowboy from the festival, or the dark flashing eyed guy, Frank.

Red herrings:  None.  Lord, I wish there were some in this dumb story.

Solution:  Frank knew about the safe.  He was the same build as Jack only shorter, so he boosted his height using lifts which gave him an unusual gait.  Then using a disposable cell phone Frank sent Jack a text, allegedly from his probation officer, in order to get him out of the way and under suspicion.  What  Frank forgot was his eye color was different from Jack, who had light blue eyes.

My two cents:  Holy cow poke poop.  What a mess this was. The solution was almost a whole column long.  It had to be because besides the dark eyes clue, there was little for the reader to go on.  Of course the dark eyes clue was enough really in this sadly written tale.  The only thing I liked was that there was a Wild West show in town.  I thought that was fun and could lead to a great set-up.  Sadly, I was wrong.

How did Frank know about the safe?  That wasn’t revealed in the story.  I suppose the reader has to guess?

Putting lifts in your boots doesn’t give you an unusual gait.  That was just dumb.

A disposable cell phone? (rolling eyes here)  You know, we do have caller ID.  If the probation office had called, it would show up on Caller ID.  Duh.

The fact that Marjorie told the cops to leave Sam alone and ‘hasn’t he given you enough information’ just boggles the mind.  First of all how would she know what information he gave the cops?  Secondly, she’s interfering with a police investigation.  She’s lucky she didn’t get a fast boot out the door, or a seat in the back of a patrol car.

Probation officers don’t send text messages.   If Jack thought that it was a real text for him to report, why didn’t he call the probation officer instead of running down to the office in the middle of a work day? 

     Clue:  The dark eyes was okay, but we didn’t learn that Jack had blue eyes until the solution.  That’s just wrong.  How can the reader figure out the answer if the clue is missing?   The lifts/gait thing was also a very bad clue.  Again, no mention of the heights of these individuals, so how would the reader even know to think about that sort of thing?  We didn’t know that one guy was shorter.  We didn’t even know that they had similar builds.  There was so much missing in this story, it should never had made it past the first reader’s cut.

     Motive:   Unknown.

     Police Work:  They let other people into the store in the middle of their investigation to listen to and hear what was going on.  Just not done.

     Writing :   What can I say?  I think the reader is the one who got robbed. The whole thing was just dreadful. 

     Characters:  Confusing, missing information, no likeable people here.


Mary Jo said...

Since this story made it to print, the author probably thinks it meets WW standards. Well, I guess it does. I have to agree with you, though, Jody. It really missed the boat.

Elizabeth said...

I've known a couple of ppl who were on probation & they had appointments at specific times to report to their probation officer, and/or the P.O. would just drop in unannounced at their home or work. This was before cellphones & texting, so maybe things have changed.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Elizabeth. They don't text. What if the probationer didn't have his phone that day? Or it wasn't on? Or the battery was dead? It's a waste of time and it doesn't hold up in court. They need to speak to the probationer personally or send a certified letter that someone needs to sign. They do show up unannounced and often ask for random urine for drug screens. But this author didn't bother to do any research. You can't write any old thing and think it's okay because it's just a story. It's jarring to the reader and takes them out of the story when something doesn't ring true. It's like saying someone stuck their car keys in the cigarette lighter outlet in the car, or for a more modern version in the converter port, and the car started. Come on. The author only has to keep track of 700 words for Pete's sake. How lazy is that? Obviously a pet peeve of mine... drives me crazy.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. re: the author thought it met WW's standards. Hell, it did meet their standards. What does that say to the rest of us? Apparently we can submit any old crap, it doesn't even have to make sense. I'm wondering if the Wild West show tickled an editor's fancy? Maybe they're looking for settings they haven't seen before? Your guess is as good as mine. I love it when I see a great story in WW. Just the opposite when I see a terrible one. It's frustrating. Why the inconsistency? That's the 64-thousand-dollar question.

Chris said...

The lifts in the boots didn't work for me since the difference they'd make in a man's height would, I'd have thought, be fairly small. And, anyway, it seems too elaborate a thing for Frank to do before the crime. As for the clue about the two men's eye colours, we weren't told Jack's eyes were light, not dark, until the story had ended, so couldn't eliminate him based on that.

But as for parole officers never using text messages to summon someone for a meeting, Jody, it wasn't actually the parole officer who'd done it, was it? It was Frank, the real thief, trying to get Jack out of the way and throw suspicion on him. So while I see where you're coming from wanting accuracy in a story, the two young men, Frank and Jack, wouldn't necessarily know appointments are never made that way, so both could make that same mistake. Had it been part of the solution and the officer then asked to see everyone's cellphones it would have made a valid clue. Unfortunately, it went nowhere.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. I was thinking more of Jack, the probationer, knowing that his probation officer wouldn't text him. When you're put on probation they sit you down and go over all the rules, and you have to initial/sign each one before they let you out in the world. Jack went running out of work to the probation office on a text. Yeah, he was young and he might be sweating getting in trouble by not showing up. But it was a throwaway cell phone. The caller ID would not say Probation Office. One quick call to the probation office to check would have done it. I agree that Jack probably didn't know and that in itself was probably a good clue for the police that something was planned but even if the police did ask for cell phones, the guy got rid of it. Yeah, this one went nowhere for sure. Too bad for everybody.