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Friday, 13 February 2009

Just Another Dusty Day

By Chester Baldwin of Multifaceted Musings

The lady sat at the kitchen table, crying into a crumpled up piece of tissue, wondering who could have done such a thing. She felt so violated. She'd been called home early from work by her mother who had found the house apparently burgled. The furniture was all in disarray and thirty dollars cash had been stolen from the very table at which she sat.

Before leaving for work this morning, she had carefully laid out three neat ten dollar bills on the kitchen table for her mother. Her mother came every Thursday and cleaned her house. When her mother got there today, around 11AM, the interior of the home was in a shambles.

It was my job to find out who it was who had done such a thing, and not only to find out who, but why, how, when, and prosecute them, if at all possible. I had been a police detective for a few years and thought I'd seen it all. This was just a simple burglary - the back door had been pried open for the perpetrator to gain entry and a quick search was made for anything of value, which accounted for the state of disarray the house was in.

In and out, quickly, I thought, leaving very little, if any, evidence. I knew I'd take a report, file it at the police department and it would be there should the lady want to turn it in to her insurance company. An arrest and conviction? Not likely.

But something wasn't quite right. I couldn't tell what it was at the time, but after one has been a cop for a while, he just sometimes gets a hunch, and sometimes all he has to go on is that hunch.

Of course, different settings lend themselves, or not, to talking about such things. For instance, talking about a "hunch" in a film noir movie sounds great. Mentioning it on the witness stand in real life will get your case thrown out quicker than a lawyer perking up at the sound of an ambulance.

Nonetheless, I looked around.

A book case, which had been against a wall, full of books, had been pushed down, causing a good portion of the books to fall off of it. According to the lady, there had been nothing else in the shelves but books. They had been there for quite a while because, as I could readily see, they were dusty despite the supposedly thorough house cleaning the elderly mother was paid to do each and every week.

As I walked through the house I notice other things - dishes in the sink had been thrown against the floor and some of them broken; a radio, still gently emitting strains of Willie Nelson's Blue Eyes Cryin' In The Rain, was left untouched; and in one of the bedrooms, apparently a teenager's, the bed had been upturned.

Hmmm. I asked the lady who all lived there and was told that it was just she and her husband and their 16-year-old son who was in school. Her husband had left very early for work and she and her son left later, he in his car for school and she in hers for work.

I kept looking. I didn't know what I was looking for but I kept looking. After several long minutes, I spied a small metal box on a mantel over what had once been a fireplace, but had long since been plastered over and a small gas stove stood in its place. On the mantel, again perhaps too high for the elderly and short mother to reach, was dust.

I picked up the box and before opening it, asked the lady what was in it. She stated that she and her son had been at a garage sale several weeks ago and had bought it because her son liked the looks of it. He'd brought it home and put it on the mantel, empty. As far as she knew, it hadn't been touched since then. It didn't look like it, either. It, too, was neatly covered with dust.

There! I knew who it was that would "do such a thing"! I went to my car and called the high school, identified myself and asked if the boy had been in school all day. The principal's secretary checked the day's rolls and said that, yes, he'd been counted as present in his classes. She also said that, just to make sure, she do some more checking and, if she found out anything to the contrary, she'd call me back.

In about the length of time it took me to walk back inside the house, my cell phone rang. It was the secretary. She told me that the boy had left school around ten o'clock to run some errands for the vo-tech teacher. He had returned to school at 10:35AM.

As difficult as it was, I had to tell the lady that I believed her son was the culprit. After I explained why, she reluctantly agreed with me.

I went to the school, had the principal get the boy out of class and we had a sit down, face to face interview, just the four of us - the boy, the mother, myself and the principal. I routinely read the boy his Miranda rights in the presence of his mother since he was a juvenile. Shaking and nervous, he agreed to talk to me.

About half way through his story, he broke down and started crying. He admitted that he'd left the school, gone home knowing that there was cash money on the kitchen table and also knowing that no one would be home. He reached in his pocket and pulled out three ten dollar bills. He hadn't even had time to spend it. He said he'd trashed the place to make it look like a burglary.

His mother, since she was his mother and she got her money back, declined to file charges against her son. That closed the case and I got up to leave. She followed me out of the principal's office and spoke to me in private.

She wanted to know how I knew it was her son. I told her about the dust covered box. Any outside burglar that wasn't familiar with her house would have at least opened that box to check for valuables, but it hadn't been touched - the dust had not been disturbed. That showed me that it was an inside job. Playing the real life odds, a teenager is a much more likely suspect in a burglary than is an elderly grandmother.

Thank goodness for poor housekeepers!!

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Hi Chester,

What a great story. It really held my attention all the way through.

Tell me, is it fiction or were you really a detective?

I am really a retired cop. I was a detective for about 8 years of a 25 year career. And, yes, although I took some "literary license" , the story is 99 percent true.

I am really a retired cop. I was a detective for about 8 years of a 25 year career. And, yes, although I took some "literary license" , the story is 99 percent true.

Well, Chester, you know I got that feeling.

Your story rang so true and was so realistic and well written, I just knew you were a real detective.

I hope you write about other cases in the future. I'll be watching for you....

How very interesting. That wouldn't have occurred to me at all - or I think it wouldn't have. I'd love to hear more of your stories.

I wish you were here to do the detective work on my theft. The police made a report, gave me a number, and as far as I know that is the end of it. Trouble is, I know that at least one of four workers in my house took my valuables, but I don't know which one. I guess a theft of around $3,500 isn't a big deal when there are murders to solve.

Apart from that, I enjoyed you story very much.

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