In Praise of Detectives

I’ve been turning this over in my mind, and I need to correct the record by way of augmentation.  I said a detective’s job is a shitty job, and I still think so, but that may imply more than it should.  I don’t doubt there are many who love the job.  My opinion is just my opinion.  So, here is some of my observation about a detective on the job when I was a rookie, who positively amazed me.

It started with a call to a residence in the Hollywood Hills.  I’ll be brief about that because this is not about the call from the patrol unit perspective, but rather the detective’s.  Anyway, my partner and I received a call to go to the residence of a man who had mailed a suicide note to relatives back in the Midwest.  It said, “…by the time you get this, I will be dead by my own hand…”. So, we were called to make what they call a “welfare check”, ironically enough.

The house was up in the hills, and had been owned by a movie industry professional.  No one famous.  That person had died a year or so prior, and the suicide note was from his life partner.  When we got to the house, we searched the house.  The ride up the hill was kind of long, so it gave us time to speculate on how the suicide happened.  We had our different ideas.  SO, when we got to the house, the door was unlocked.  This was a little suspicious, and we are always on the lookout for an ambush, so we proceeded with caution.  The place had cool, interesting, and widely varied lighting available, and the only lights on at the time were some track lights over some paintings and some rolled up Oriental rugs at the base of the wall.  The half-light made it all the more eerie.

We searched each room together, and being brief, no body anywhere.  I thought he’d be hanging from a shower curtain rod or something, so opening each door, I pictured a dangling body, just barely swinging, like so many horror films.  My partner guessed pill overdose, if I remember correctly.  (Incidentally, that turned out to be quite common over the next few years). So, as we became satisfied that it did not look…or smell…like 3 day old dead man anywhere, we started back to the car.  

Ok, so walking back to your patrol car under most circumstances, but especially when things just don’t seem quite right, is done tactically.  One partner takes a wide arc to the right, the other takes a wide arc to the left.  You are looking for people to jump out from behind something, and pipe bombs placed near your vehicle.  As a result of doing that, I noticed that the there was a car in the garage.  “THAT’S IT!”  Asphyxiation in the BMW.  We tried to get into the garage, but couldn’t.  We shined lights through the doors into the car and found nothing.  Still no dead guy.  Then, I noticed that the garage was built into the side of the hill.  There was a staircase that led down to a deck.  I let my partner know.  This could be it, dead guy or ambush.  We went down the stairs, and my partner stopped me at the door.  My partner tried the handle, and this one was open.  Then she said, “I’ll open the door, you follow the edge and tell me if you see anything.  I kept the barrel of my gun leveled at the opening as it widened.  

That when I was some feet.  I said, “I’ve got legs.  I’ve got legs.”  (I know it sounds stupid). Then I said, I’ve got a body.  At that point, she stopped opening and came around.  We went inside.  Dead guy was laying on his back in a giant puddle of blood which spilled out onto the floor.  Dead guy was probably 6’4” tall.  On the floor was a puddle of blood about the size of, oh, let’s say 4 feet in diameter.  That was the smallest puddle since it started on the bed and flowed down at the rate determined by some artery in his head.  He was laying there across a twin bed, with a .38 snub nose revolver in his right hand, laying neatly at the center of his chest, pointing straight across.  So, a LOT of blood, but a very neat posture on the bed.  Too neat, the rookie cop thought.

So, my partner started going through his personal things right in view.  There was a newly opened box that the gun came in, and a receipt.  There was a half eaten bowl of cereal.  I kept looking at dead guy like he was going to get up and object to us being nosy.  Then my partner radioed the station and asked for a detective.  I knew we were onto something big.  Way too neat of a placement of the body.  The detective arrived after about 20 or 30 minutes.  He asked me what I thought happened.  I told him basically what I told you, with a few more details that would not be interesting to you.  After my brilliant explanation, and hyper curiosity about what must have transpired, the detective just said…”nope.”

Then he just calmly walked over and showed me exactly how it happened.  The guy sat down on the edge of the bed, and put the nose of the gun to his forehead.  When he fired it, he fell backwards and landed on his back, and in that same motion the arm landed right in the middle of his chest.  This detective has seen this sort of things many, many times, and knew a lot about many things.  The thing that allayed my suspicion is that the arm movement was completely normal.  He didn’t have help.  The detective not only knew a lot about a lot, but this scene was as sensational to him as returning a library book.  He was good at what he did, and what he did was very valuable.  I would not want his job for any amount of money, but I respect it.  

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