Peas in a Pod: Cops, Agents, and Eye-Rolling Writers

When it comes to the convoluted business of writing, a few things immediately come to mind. Such as …

  1. Being a writer is like being a politician. You get to make up @#$! and your fans love it.
  2. Being a writer is like being a plumber. Somewhere around the middle of the job you find yourself elbow deep in @#$!
  3. Writers are like prostitutes. They do it for money but the income arrives in small amounts at random times.
  4. Agents are like pimps without the purple suede leisure suits and feathers in their hats. Oh, wait …
  5. A good book is like a large pot of coffee. It keeps you awake all night.
  6. Sitting at a keyboard while clacking away at random characters is something an illiterate chimp can do. Much of today’s media is proof that chimps are better at it.
  7. Autocolonoscopy  Autocorrect is great, except when it isn’t.
  8. A great book is a like a fine statue. Their creators started with an idea and then carved away everything that didn’t help tell the story.
  9. Writers are like cops. They like coffee and whiskey and telling tall tales … and whiskey. I know, this one was an eye-roller …

10. A bad story is like a snow skier. They’re both start at out on a slow upward climb toward the summit. Then it’s all downhill from there until they reach the end, which is often totally uneventful.Unless it’s not. But you’ll never know what it’s like until you start the climb.

11. The words of a good book remain forever. The words of a politician remain only until the next big donation comes along.

12. Real-life bad guys, to save themselves a lot of grief, should take the time to read a mystery book. By doing so they’d know the good guys always win in the end.

13. Good books are like the bed in a by-the-hour motel. Lots of action between the covers.

14. Great ideas make great books, except when they don’t.

15. Social media can be like a cancer. No punch line. It truly can be like a cancer.

16. The bravest men and women in the world today are currently sitting at home, ranting and raving away on Facebook, telling people just how brave they are. Then they play video games like the popular Conquer the World Using Really Big Fake Guns and Lots of Noise and with People Who Live and Die a Bunch Each time the Game is Played. So march on, brave basement warriors. March on. Oh, the next time you go upstairs … get a job! There’s always greeting customers at Weirdomart, or selling fries at Booger Joe’s Burger Joint. They’re both hiring.

17. Lone literary agents at writers conferences are like the innocent fawns that tiptoe through the forest—they both know an attack could come at any moment. This is why experienced agents travel in packs. A herd of snarky, seasoned literary agents typically fares well. It’s the newbie who chats with anyone at any time who falls prey to the predatory writer(s). This is the agent we’ll not see again until they receive intensive retraining. He or she will need to hone the skills of avoiding writers at all cost. They must polish the combined technique of how to say, “Send me twenty pages of this delightful manuscript,” while simultaneously devising a clever means of destroying the pages before he/she heads back to their hotel room. Then comes the most difficult lesson of all—how to never, not ever, answer an email or phone call from writers. This one is tough, at first, because the natural instinct is to pick up when our phones jingle, and to open emails as they arrive in our inboxes. However, agents have managed to acquire the ability to ignore writers without a speck of remorse for their rudeness. Amazing ability. simply amazing.

18. A firefighter and a police officer enter a bar at a mystery writers conference. They’ll know better next time.

Finally …

19. Two drunks and a writer enter a bar during a writers conference. Three drunks come out.

20. Twenty separate news articles about the same topic are written by twenty different “reporters” at twenty different media agencies. Each of the twenty stories are dramatically different. Neither relay sthe same “facts.” Some offer praise. Some are dark and dreary. Others are light and happy. Some are filled with opinion (hatred or love). None, however, are accurate. The story is all over the place. Unfortunately, this is today’s reporter. Bull … loney.

And I know exactly what he speaks of, and it’s not something you’d want to step in …

Manchester: The Day the Music Stopped

Fake News: Bad Information Overdose

Many of you call on me from time to time to answer questions about police procedure and all things related. To do so, I typically draw on my own personal experience and training, and the knowledge acquired through first-hand encounters over the years.

When I respond to such inquiries, and when writing this blog, teaching workshops, etc., one thing I never do is present inaccurate information, especially something that’s intended to sway a writer’s opinion, feelings, or the outcome of a book. I offer fact. I provide fact. This blog is a factual collection of, well, facts.

The same is true in law enforcement. Embellishing a police report to make things seem in favor of one party over another, or to skew how something happened to cover a particularly unfavorable fact, is wrong. Therefore, it’s not supposed to be done. If so, well, there’s termination and possible time before a judge and/or behind bars.

We tell our children to always be truthful. To do otherwise would be wrong, right? That’s what we teach our kids, right? TELL THE TRUTH!!!

Lies hurt people.

Lies are wrong.

Enter today’s media.

Someone should teach them how to report actual fact. Imagine today’s reporter standing at the mic during a spelling bee …

Moderator – “Mr. Wouldn’tknowthetruthifitbithimonthebutt, your word is NEWS. Please use the 2017 definition.”

“News. Um … something somebody tells you and, um … no matter what it is you must believe it. Then, when passing along the information, you are, um … free to make up crap and insert it into the “news.” And so on. That’s what we do—open our mouths and crap falls out. News.”

I know, and I apologize. The microphone was a bit crudely drawn. Other than than … pretty much on the money.

So, to avoid overdosing on fake news, here’s a handy recipe. I hope it helps.

lies

Truth in the News, a Recipe

Step One – Read “news” from all media sources.

Step Two – Try really hard to find eight or ten somewhat credible not too outlandish reports that seem to repeat similar bits and pieces of things you think could be true, good or not.

Step Three – Write down those “could-be-true” items, if any.

Step Four – Compare “could-be-true” stuff. Again, if any.

Step Five – Whittle down the list to the three stories that seem most believable.

Step Six – Thumbtack the three best stories to the family dartboard.

Step Seven – Close your eyes and toss a dart at the board.

Step Eight – Whichever story struck by the dart is the go-to “real news” story for the day. Don’t worry, it will soon change so be sure to keep plenty of paper and sharpened darts handy.

Step Nine – This one is important – Please, please, please, try not to allow emotion to control how a media report is perceived simply because it contains words you like/something you’d like to believe.

Be calm.

Wait for facts from a trusted source, not one that’s pushing an agenda, even if that agenda is one you favor. Yes, today’s media is, believe it or not, agenda driven.

Remember, things are not always as they appear. Take a breath. Step back. Do a bit of research.

Finally, in today’s Wild West shootout-type coverage of almost any topic, it’s certainly best to not read one “news” source merely because they’re “on your side.” It’s not a healthy approach in today’s climate of “Us Against Them.”

 

 

 

Welcome to the All New Graveyard Shift!

Thanks for stopping by, and yes, do come in and have a nice stroll along the newly renovated hallways. Please watch your step and use caution, though, because as you can see in the above image we’re in the process of launching our new website and we certainly don’t want any accidents on the first day.

There are no guides to lead you so feel free to peek and poke and prod and explore on your own. Along the way, you may see a few buttons that aren’t yet operational, while others lead to nowhere. Those items are still under construction but will be ready in the very near future.

At this stage in this massive site overhaul, we’re sort of like the 160 room Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, Ca.—the project is ongoing and will be for quite some time. Not quite like Sarah Winchester, though, who kept her construction workers busy for 38 years, 24 hours a day, building 161 rooms, including 40 bedrooms, 2 ballrooms, 47 fireplaces, over 10,000 panes of glass, 17 chimneys and possibly two others that are no longer standing, two basements and three elevators, we now see daylight at the end of our corridors. In fact, our wonderful site designer is nearly ready to drive the last few nails.

This website has come a long way since the day I first had the idea to begin writing a blog. Actually, the inspiration for this site came when a writer asked me about the handcuffs carried by police officers. Specifically, her question was, “Do all cops use the same type of handcuffs?” I sent her my response along with a photo of the two most common types of cuffs. Then it hit me—it would be wonderful if I could reach a lot of writers at the same time. And, I thought, a blog would be a wonderful compliment to my book about police procedure and investigation.

Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide for WritersSo here we are, nearly a decade after that post of a single photo and barely over 200 words. Of course, other projects have arisen along the way, such as the Writers’ Police Academy, additional publications, appearances on TV and radio and more.

In the coming days and weeks I’ll be announcing a couple of exciting new projects currently in the works. Believe me, when I say exciting I mean exciting. Hey, you’ve been to the Writers’ Police Academy, right? Yeah, that kind of exciting! And, as they say on TV … But WAIT!! Yes, there’s more and I’m bursting at the seams to tell you …

In the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to the genius behind this brand new website. I know you can’t see all the cool dials, knobs, switches that I see behind the scenes, but this site is lean and mean, let me tell you.

Anyway, Shelly Haffly (pictured below), owner of Rusti Boot Creative, has spent the past several weeks immersed inside the walls of this site. She and her team basically demolished over nine years of termite-infested and water-damaged blog posts and images. And they ripped up and shredded the old design and then started fresh.

At the beginning of the project, Shelly and I discussed at length my goals for the site (and the WPA website). She asked a lot of tough questions, digging ideas and thoughts from my twisted mind until she had a clear vision for this new site. It was a police interrogation times ten. She really knows her business!

About Shelly Haffly and Rusti Boot Creative:

  • Shelly is the owner of Rusti Boot Creative.
  • Her mission is to help small businesses build business.
  • Rusti Boot Creative is a digital marketing consulting firm.
  • They provide web development, SEO and Google Analytics, digital and social media marketing.
  • Shelly says, “We are almoooooooost Google Adwords certified.”
  • And, “We can build the site, market the site, and keep your social media engine running.” Shelly enjoys marketing and building business, and she’s quite good at it.

I asked Shelly to tell us something personal about herself. Here’s what she had to say.

“I live on a farm with lots of critters, including 12 dogs. I’m a certified pistol and rifle instructor and range officer, a NASP Archery instructor, and I’ve taught lots of ladies how to shoot well.” ~ Shelly Haffly

Yes, Shelly Haffly is a good fit for this site, for writers, and for the WPA.

So there you have it. Thanks so much for being a part of the launch, and I thank each of you for your continued support as we strive to bring you the best and most accurate information possible.

You guys are the best!

 

 

 

The Graveyard Shift: Almost DONE!!

Website is almost done!

After nearly ten years of providing information about topics such as police procedure, forensics, firefighting, DNA, and poisons, along with tasty recipes, silly stories, sad stories, fun stories, and gripping reality, well, it was time for change. Major change.

For a long, long time we’ve been applying bandaids to fix things that required full organ transplants. But I wasn’t willing to shut down the site long enough to allow a major overhaul. So … it finally happened.

The Graveyard Shift became The Graveyard Snail.

The Graveyard Snail

The site developed a mind of its own and starting doing things without my assistance. It was as if “the snail” was behind the wheel, wreaking havoc wherever it oozed.

Text became garbled and sometimes nonsensical, and comments and photos began to disappear, like yesterday when they were dropping like flies in a pesticide factory.

Anyway, for the past several weeks, our team of experts have been hard at work night and day (seriously) working to fix the broken stuff to keep us going while totally redesigning the site.

Well, the website and its new look is absolutely wonderful. It’s sleek and very, very cool with lots of new features and information, as well as some exciting additions.

Trust me, things (The Graveyard Shift, Writers’ Police Academy, and Lee and Denene Lofland) are going to move quickly in a few new directions, so hang on. The next few months are … well, you’ll see!!

In the meantime, thanks for your understanding and patience throughout this transition.

The new site should be online Monday morning and I can’t wait for you to see it.

By the way, exciting news about the Writers’ Police Academy is also heading your way next week. Yes, we do indeed have a few new available slots, so hurry before they, too, are gone!

,

What Goes Through A Cop’s Mind When …

A guide to cop talk

Cops hear all sorts of wacky comments during the course of their careers, and they’d love to return a few snarky comments of their own. However, they hold their tongues (in most instances). But wouldn’t you love to hear what’s going through their minds when someone says …

1. It’s always nice to hear updates about friends and family members who are or were police officers, but to name-drop during a traffic stop is not all that impressive. Unless, of course, the name you’re dropping is your own and that you’re the mother or spouse of the officer who pulled you over. That’s the only time you might see a favorable response, though. Therefore, Cousin Bertha, your signature goes right there.

2. Cops truly appreciate the fact that you pay taxes and that a miniscule amount of your hard-earned dollars go toward their salaries. However, they, too, pay taxes, which, by the way, pays for the roads you travel, the schools attended by your kids, along with a miniscule portion of their own salaries (does that mean cops are actually self-employed?). So thank you very much.

3. Thank you for screaming into my face that your uncle’s sister’s cousin on her daddy’s side of the family used to be the sheriff over in Doodlebop County. I wonder if he’d be impressed to learn that you’ve just beaten your wife and kids?

4. I know … you only had two beers. I also know those two beers were probably the chaser you consumed after gulping down an entire fifth of Jack Daniels. And don’t think I can’t see that bag of weed sticking out of your pants pocket, you dumbass.

5. You only stopped me because I’m white, green, black, blue, brown, or purple. That’s right, Sparky. The fact that you were driving 180 mph in a school zone had nothing to do with it. And, of course, my powerful x-ray vision allowed me to see through your nearly black (tinted) windows so I could zero in on your skin color. Sign here, please.

6. You’re gonna have my badge? Okay, here. Take it. Because I’m tired of dealing with assholes like you every day of my life.

7. You’ll see me someday when I’m not wearing my uniform … What does that mean? You want to fight me when I’m off duty? But I just saw you in the grocery store yesterday. Remember? You smiled and called me “sir” when you introduced me to the wife and kids. I did happen to notice your cart was pretty heavy, though, with all that beer. Perhaps you’ve been possessed and it’s King Budweiser who’s speaking through your lips right now.

8. But everyone else was speeding faster than you, you say? I know, but I’m like a lion. I pick the slowest and weakest in the herd. They’re much easier to catch.

9. Stop disrespecting you? Gee, you’re absolutely right. I should take you more seriously as you stand there drunk as a skunk with a big wet urine spot in the crotch of your pants while you so kindly spit in my face. The puke on the front of your shirt and your piece of crap car sitting in the middle of that nice lady’s living room definitely commands tons of respect. Now let’s go … “Sir.”

10. I’m sure you do know your rights, ma’am, but peeing in the back seat of my patrol car is not one of them.

The Night I Became Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze

I was thumbing through a stack of offense reports, the crimes that had occurred during the previous overnight hours, when the owner of a nightclub showed up at my office door. His business had a widely-known reputation for rowdy bar fights, stabbings, drug dealing, and shootings. He was a loud-talking man with a coarse voice that sounded as if he’d swallowed sandpaper. He was rude, crude, and irritatingly boisterous. However, the day he sat in the chair next to my desk with his hat in hand, however, he was as meek and mild as a newborn kitten. He had troubles and he wore them on his sleeve for the world to see.

He explained to me that the local police (his club was located in a nearby city outside of my jurisdiction) had threatened to begin proceedings to classify his business as a nuisance. Their goal was to then subsequently padlock the doors. He went on to tell me that he’d invested his entire life savings into the nightclub, as well as the cash he’d set aside for his daughters’ college years, which were rapidly approaching.

I asked Mr. Jones (not his real name) why he’d come to see me and not an officer in the city where his business was located. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “I understand you know how to clean up problems like mine. You can, right?”

At the time, I did have a bit of a reputation for taking on the biggest and baddest thugs on the street, and winning. Of course, I didn’t do it alone. I had the backing of a large group of police officers we called the “Street Crimes Unit (SCU).”

When I was recruited to work for a  certain (unnamed) city police department, part of the reason why was to clean up an area called “The Bottom” (not the real name) where honest, law-abiding folks absolutely did not dare venture outside at night. Instead, they double-locked their doors and windows and hunkered down, anticipating gunfire, home invasions, and drug dealers and prostitutes operating their businesses from the locals’ front yards and porches.

Dialing 911 was basically a hobby for the residents of The Bottom, and, when patrol officers responded they were often on the receiving end of anonymous gunfire, rocks, bricks, and more. They were outnumbered—15 or 20 to 1.

So, in order to accomplish the task I was hired to do, I assembled a team of off-duty officers, sheriff’s deputies, corrections officers, federal agents, friends of mine from the state police and other state agencies, reserve officers, and a herd of canines and their handlers—both narcotics dogs and those who love to bite. We were all outfitted in SWAT-type clothing for uniformity, and we were heavily armed. After a briefing where I instructed everyone to be safe but to arrest as many law breakers as they could possibly nab—I wanted the bad guys to know we meant business—we headed out on a mission we hoped would produce positive results.

I led the long parade of police vehicles to the edge of The Bottom where we parked, gave the dogs a quick potty break, and then we “moved in” on foot, walking as a large unit down the middle of the street. I assigned two officers to stay behind, standing guard over our vehicles.

We were about 30 deep and 2 wide, and I guarantee you that 60 officers suited in all black with some carrying rifles and shotguns, while a pack of barking and snarling rottweilers and German shepherds, well, I’ll put it this way … the streets were fairly clear within a matter of minutes. We took a few prisoners—those who thought they could take on the police by firing a couple of Saturday night specials into the air, hoping to scare us away. And there were those who enjoyed a good fist fight no matter the odds.

 

Sure, I got my clothes dirty, and I came away with a few bruises and scrapes, but we won the battle. And we did it again and again until the elderly residents were once again able to enjoy their front porch swings while drinking glasses of iced tea and chatting with their neighbors.

Anyway, back to Mr. Jones. Those “street sweeps” earned me a reputation of taking on the biggest of the biggest and the baddest of the baddest. It wasn’t a totally earned reputation since it was an effort by an entire team, but I led the way so it was my face that was associated with kicking butt and taking names.

Mr. Jones asked me to come to work for him as the head of his team of security officers. He wanted me to be a bouncer. A cooler. And in the worst joint within five counties. I immediately said thanks but no thanks. Then, and it was odd to hear from this guy, he said, “Please.” And there were tears in his eyes.

Well, Friday night rolled around—yes, I’m a sucker for tears—and I stood just inside the front door of the nightclub, wearing a black t-shirt with SECURITY stamped in bold white letters across the back.

I was Patrick Swayze from the film Roadhouse. Well, sort of …

I also wore BDU’s with the pockets packed with pepperspray, a kubaton, an ASP, and handcuffs.

I showed the other bouncers how to operate a hand-held metal detector—everyone was to be scanned…no exceptions, I told them. No purses, pocketbooks, or bags of any kind. No pepperspray and no knives … of any kind. If the detector sounds off, pat them down. If they refuse the pat-down, they don’t come inside. Simple as that. I did not want to go home that night with any extra perforations in my body.

Ten minutes into this dumb move, I was wondering just how dumb I was for considering this dumb assignment.

Finally, at 10:00 p.m. (my usual bedtime), it was time to open the doors. The DJ was already pumping out Hip-Hop and rap tunes that pounded inside my skull and rattled my bones until I thought my skeleton might make a break for it and dash for the exit. I’m a Led Zepplin/Pink Floyd kind of guy, so the music spewing from the club’s Volkswagen-size speakers definitely wasn’t doing anything to make me feel welcome.

I peeked outside and saw a line of people snaking down the front steps, out into the gravel parking lot (I’d already made a mental note to avoid any scuffles out there, because rolling around on jagged stones can be painful), and down the sidewalk at the street. Building capacity was 800 and there were at least 1,000 people waiting to get inside to hear “DJ Jamba-Juice” or whatever the hell his stage name was. I think his real name was Billy Smith, though.

The crowd poured through the double front doors like water going down a drain. At twenty bucks each, Mr. Jones was making a killing, and that wasn’t counting the watered down scotch and bourbon the patrons would soon be gulping, at 10- to 12-bucks a pop.

The guys at the doors used those counter-clicker-things, trying to keep track of how many people had come inside, but doing that, scanning for metal objects, searching pockets, arguing about the pocketbook rule, and dealing with those who were already intoxicated when they arrived, well, let’s just say they lost count and the building was bursting at the seams. I swear, each time the crowd exhaled I thought I could see moonlight coming in through the spaces where the rafters “used to” meet the walls.

 

And, lo and behold, it happened. Somebody looked at somebody’s girlfriend and the donkey dung hit the fan. It was on and out came the knives and broken beer bottles.

I waded through the crowd of looky-loos, pushing and pulling people out of my way until I found the fight. Four men going at each other like a pack of hyenas going after a zebra carcass. Two women were scratching and clawing and hair-pulling, and this was the snatching of real hair. Their wigs were on the floor, looking like two squashed and very dead muskrats.

I started worming my way into the fight, stopping the slugging, stabbing, and cutting. Then a shot rang out. And then another, and another.

People scrambled toward the exits, knocking down the weak and the meek. The fight, though, continued, and more men joined in with some taking cheap shots at me. So I decided to even the odds and pulled out my pepper spray and began squirting the attackers like I was spraying a bad roach infestation. I held the ASP in my other hand, ready to take out the kneecaps, elbows, and collarbones of anyone not affected by the spray. Luckily, they abandoned their intentions and headed for the door, rubbing their burning eyes and skin.

My brand new SECURITY shirt was torn at the collar and my freshly laundered pants were filthy, with several drops and smears of blood on the legs and near the waistband. I looked around to see why the other bouncers hadn’t come to my aid, but they, too, had been involved in battles of their own. We looked a mess, like warriors who’d been away battling dragons and other evil creatures.

A few minutes later the local police arrived and they came inside ten deep, ready to clear the joint. The sergeant recognized me and immediately asked, “What the hell are you doing here?” But his question came a bit too late … I’d already asked myself that very question at least a dozen times. And to this day I still don’t know why I agreed to serve as a real-life Patrick Swayze for a night.

I did learn a valuable lesson, though, that it’s a lot safer to approach a situation such as the one at Mr. Jones’ bar, if you go in carrying machine guns while following a handful of well-trained dogs. A stick and a can of pepper juice just doesn’t cut it when the odds are a thousand to six, in the favor of the other team.

 

By the way, that was the last night Mr. Jones’ bar was open for business. Someone eventually bought it and turned the place into a family restaurant, specializing in Mexican food … where hot peppers are used as they should be … as part of the cuisine.

 

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Sex on a Grave, and Stolen Bones: Working the Graveyard Shift

sex in a graveyard

An assignment working homicide cases is, without a doubt, a first class ticket to the bizarre and all things macabre.

Cops who investigate murders for a living see it all, from poisonings to gunshot wounds to decapitation by sword. The list is limited only to the far corners of a killer’s imagination. In other words, endless.

It’s bad enough working a murder scene during daytime hours, but to do so at night, by moonlight, can be a bit spooky. And, when a crime scene involves a cemetery, a shovel, and a rotting corpse … well, that’s extra spooky. No, that’s downright S.P.O.O.K.Y.

As I mentioned, killers are sometimes quite creative. I’ve investigated uses where victims were stabbed with a sharpening steel from a kitchen knife block, suffocated with a plastic grocery bag, and even one poor soul who was deliberately pushed in front of a very fast passenger train. The latter did not end well at all. Well, neither did the others, but the train … an ear there, a finger over there, a brain two miles away (beneath a bush), an eye, an arm, a leg. Not pleasant at all.

Once in a while a killer blames his dastardly deeds on some unseen force, such as voices in his head, or as in a case I once worked, the killer blamed what he’d done on aliens from Mars.

This troubled man used an ax to hack his sister-in-law- to death. An extremely violent act. However, in stark contrast to the frenzied savagery, he was quite calm during my interview with him. He told me that Martians dictated every step of the murder, from his walk to the woodpile to get the ax to the point where he’d started hacking his brother’s wife into small pieces.

The victim’s small children were in the room, no more than fifteen feet away from the spot where their mother was being butchered by their uncle, a man who’d been released from a mental hospital two weeks prior to the murder. Doctors there said he was fine and showed no signs of violence.

Two weeks later … an ax. A separation from reality.

Chopped into pieces, with her children looking on.

Blood spatter on the ceiling and walls. Dripping and slowly running down the drywall and trim. Pooling on the floor. The killer’s bloody footprints throughout the house. Blood on the bed and linen. On the clothing, arms, legs, and faces of the children. They, tiny kids, huddled together, crying. Brain matter, flesh, and bone, all scattered about.

This was the scene when I arrived.

So yes, I’ve seen a few oddities over the years, including …

I knocked on Miss Evelyn’s front door, and while waiting for someone to answer I had a look around the front porch. Nothing unusual … a one-gallon vegetable can filled with sand and topped with a handful of cigarette butts, an old wooden rocking chair, five flower pots with each containing the remnants of some sort of plant—all dead, dried up, and crispy—, a well-worn, green cloth sofa, and a portable radio that was missing a knob. A foil-wrapped coat hanger poking up from a hole in the top of the radio’s plastic casing. It replaced the former antenna that, at some point, had broken and was either lost or discarded as trash. Either way, the radio, in it’s present condition, had been there for as long as I could remember.

And, as always, smack-dab in the center of the front door were three fairly fresh chicken feet that were tied together at the ankles with a piece of bright red twine. The collection of gnarly toes and bony knuckles dangled from a rusty thumbtack. Nothing odd at all … for Miss Evelyn. I knocked again. The “decor” hadn’t changed in all the years I’d gone there. Not a thing.

I’d met Miss Evelyn after arresting a man for burglary and, while searching his pockets for weapons and other illegal items, I discovered a small flannel pouch tucked inside his wallet. I figured the contents could possibly be drugs, probably marijuana or hash, or something of that nature, so I asked the kid to level with me so I’d know what to expect.

I was surprised to hear him say that what I held in my hand was not was I’d suspected. Instead, he said, it was his “medicine bag,” a ground up mixture of chicken bones, tobacco, human hair, and herbs. Its purpose was to keep him safe. This was my first contact with a medicine bag. However, it was far from the last.

Root doctors make medicine bags containing plant and animal matter, such as human or animal bone, sage, Medicine Baggarlic, and even dirt from a grave. The purpose of the bag is, for example, to provide safety, heal and prevent illness, and to help ignite or halt romances, etc. Another practically endless list.

This young burglar purchased his bag from Miss Evelyn, a local root doctor. Since this was a totally new experience for me, I decided to pay this so-called root doctor a visit. And, long story shortened a bit, Miss Evelyn “knew all and saw all” and she soon became one of my most reliable informants.

Her customer base was massive and many were criminals, so …

A young man, Miss Evelyn’s nephew, answered the door and led me to the kitchen where his aunt stood at the head of the table, hard at work assembling her latest batch of medicine bags and other concoctions. A large black kettle was at full boil on the wood stove. I didn’t ask.

Miss Evelyn wore her usual attire, a blue bandana tied over her hair, a faded pink and blue housedress that was three sizes too big, and black pumps. If I’d had to guess I’d say she weighed in the neighborhood of just under a hundred pounds. As always, her face was wet with sweat and her fingernails were bitten to the quick. When she smiled it became instantly obvious that dentists were not a part of her clientele, nor had she ever, not once, crossed the threshold of any tooth doctor’s office. Her breath smelled like a rotting animal carcass. She was quirky, to say the least, and she was one of the nicest people I’d ever met.

I’d gone there that particular night to see if Evelyn could offer any insight about two bodies that had been dug up in a local cemetery. The vaults had been damaged and the caskets broken open. The grave-robbers took the same thing from each coffin—bones from the lower right arms and hands.

She said she’d heard about a couple who used human bones as part of their religious rituals. Before exhuming remains, though, they had sex atop the grave sites.

The man and woman visited Miss Evelyn to ask if she knew where they could get heir hands on a fresh corpse because they needed the blood prior to embalming. Well, Evelyn was having no parts of their nonsense and sent them on their way. And that was the purpose of my visit. Miss Evelyn called me the second the grave robbers left her house.

I finally caught up with the couple when I discovered their car parked near a funeral home. They were planning to break in to steal someone’s dearly departed loved one. Fortunately, we stopped them before they committed the act.

So, writers, bizarre and macabre crime does not always come in the form of murder. Nor are the macabre criminals always the odd characters who reside at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, the house with the permanent thundercloud floating above it.

This particular couple, the grave robbers, were as normal as your neighbors. Both were professionals with public jobs. They lived in a typical neighborhood and drove a normal car. However, the contents of their trunk was a bit different than most—shovels, picks, tools for prying open caskets, and a few human and animal bones scattered about. Other than that … as normal as you and I. Well, perhaps you and I are not the best examples, but you get the idea …

 

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Pat: The Little Cop Who Couldn’t

Pat the Little Cop Who Couldn't

The Hard Facts

Some people are simply not designed to be cops. There, I’ve said it. And it’s true.

Ask any police officer and they’ll tell you that it takes a special kind of person to successfully wear a gun and badge. Sure, “law dawgs” come in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, and from varying backgrounds. But there was one officer who shouldn’t have made it past the interview stage, and that cop was quickly nicknamed “The Little Cop Who Couldn’t.”

First of all, for the purpose of this blog, we need to assign a name to the officer—a gender-neutral name. Therefore, it’ll be up to you to paint your own mental picture of him/her. And the name I choose is Pat.

The Littlest Cop The Story of Pat

Pat was a unique police officer who stood at a towering 4′-11″ tall, with shoes on (4′-10″ wearing really thick socks and no shoes).

Not a single supply company stocked police uniforms in child sizes, so Pat’s clothing had to be specially made and ordered from a company that advertised, I think, on the back cover of Archie comic books. Even then, a good bit of tailoring had to be done, snipping here and stitching there, to insure a proper fit. Seriously, the little pant legs were shorter than the sleeves on my dress shirts.

If someone had bronzed Pat’s work shoes they’d have looked a lot like “baby’s first shoes.”

During basic training, one of the practical exercises for the class was to direct traffic at a busy city intersection. Trainees were required to be in full uniform for the exercise, including hats. Well, they just don’t make police hats that small, so Pat borrowed one from a fellow classmate, looking like a kid playing dress-up in adult clothing. Besides, not everyone can pull of the “police-hat look.” On the other hand, some look absolutely fabulous!

Green Bay Mounted Police Patrol

Green Bay Mounted Police Patrol – Lookin’ good officer!

Anyway, the recruit who’d just completed his turn in the intersection had successfully, without a single crash, stopped traffic from all four directions so Pat could assume the position in the middle of the street. Then, firmly in control of dozens upon dozens of idling vehicles of all sizes and makes, and with arms outstretched and a forceful tweet from a shiny and brand new whistle, Pat sharply and crisply motioned for one lane of traffic to move forward. Cars and trucks zipped by and Pat smiled, nodded, and winked at the drivers as they passed. Pat had it going on.

And all was going well until Pat gave the whistle another blast to stop the oncoming traffic, and then turned to the left to start the next lane of traffic moving. Well, Pat’s tiny head turned left, rotating inside the cap, but the too-large hat remained facing forward. The entire class erupted in laughter. Suddenly chaos broke out. Horns blew. Drivers started moving from all directions. Traffic was soon knotted up like a tin can full of wriggling fishing worms.

Pat once responded to a shoplifting call—an 11-year-old girl swiped a twenty-five cent candy bar from a local K-Mart—and just as Pat was about to enter the store the kid ran outside. Pat grabbed the little darlin’ who then pushed Pat down to the pavement. Pat got up and grabbed the 70-ish-pound kid and it was on. According to bystanders who, by the way, called 911 to report an officer needing assistance because the child was absolutely beating the tar out of Pat. One witness told responding officers that Pat resembled one of those blow-up clown punching bags that pops back upright after each blow, the kind with the big red nose that squeaks when struck.

Then there was the time when Pat’s fellow officers responded to a large fight outside a local bar. The dispatcher cautioned that weapons were involved and that several people were already injured and down. Pat was in the middle answering a domestic he-said/she-said when the call came in.

Responding officers saw the large crowd and immediately called for backup, which, at that point, meant calling in sheriff’s deputies and state troopers, since every available officer, except Pat, was already on the scene. The fight was brutal, with officers and bad guys were going at it, toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow. Officers were outnumbered four-to-one, at least.

And then they heard it … a lone siren wailing and yelping in the distance, like the sound of a ship’s horn mournfully floating across vast salt water marshes at low tide. Soon, intermittent flashes of blue light began to reflect from brick storefronts and plate glass windows. Mannequins, fur coats, and hunting apparel were all washed in the same winking and blinking azure light.

Suddenly, a patrol car shot out of the darkness. With strobes pulsing, siren screaming, and headlamps wig-wagging, Pat’s marked blue and white bore down on the parking lot and the fight that was well underway.

File:London Polizei-Einsatz.gif

Instead of stopping in the street, the tiny officer, who by the way, had to sit on a pillow to see over the dashboard (no, I’m not kidding), steered the car over the curb with a bump and a bang, pulling directly into the narrow parking lot. The car came to a stop not five feet away from the rumble.

Pat didn’t waste any time before flinging open the car door and stepping out, leaving the emergency lights in full frenzy mode, and siren crying out like an alley cat with its tail caught in a fox trap. Then Pat stepped out of the car, sort of …

You see, Pat’s pistol and holster had somehow gotten tangled with the seat belt, reeling Pat back into the car like a Yo-Yo on the upswing. Pat’s Maglite hit the pavement and broke apart, spilling D-cell batteries and the lens and bulb in all directions. The pillow fell out and slid beneath the vehicle.

And the hat. That &%*@ hat.

Yes, resting on Pat’s miniature dome was the cop/bus driver hat which, of course, remained motionless while Pat’s softball-size head spun around like a lighthouse beacon as he/she surveyed the scene and the whereabouts of the now missing batteries and seat cushion.

Suddenly, as if a magic spell had been cast, the fight stopped. Everyone, good guys and bad, all turned to watch “The Pat Show” unfold. Even the bad guys chuckled at the ridiculousness playing out before their very eyes—Pat on hands and knees retrieving lost gear and, of course, the pillow. At least the fight was over.

By the way, Pat’s hands were so small that the department had to purchase a pistol a bit smaller than standard cop issue, but Pat’s index finger was still too short to reach the trigger. Instead, he/she learned to shoot using his/her middle finger to pull the trigger. Didn’t matter, though, because Pat still barely managed to shoot a satisfactory score on the range.

So I guess the true test of becoming a police officer is not how strong the desire or how big the heart, it’s how well the head fits the hat. And, of course, you must be “this tall” to drive a police car.

Pat did have a few good officer-type qualities. Such as…

 

 

Crime scene photography. Pat was already close to the ground, so locating tiny bits of evidence was a breeze.

The Littlest Cop The Story of Pat

Surveillance

The Littlest Cop The Story of Pat

Locating “bugs”.

Pat could sit for hours at a time, watching surveillance tapes.

Undercover assignments were Pat’s favorite.

Of course, Pat’s drinking was a problem.

And there were rumors of a serious “Binky” habit…

Joining the dive team presented new challenges for Pat.

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Pat was tough, though, and managed to singlehandedly bring in even the biggest and baddest of the bad guys.

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In the end, though, it was the intradepartmental affair that ended Pat’s career.

 

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22 Facts Prove I’m a Trumpet-Playing, Guitar-Plucking Crime-Solver

guitar

22 Things You Don’t Know about Lee Lofland

Things you may or may not know about me. Yes, someone challenged me to compose a list of twenty-five.

Here’s twenty-two. One statement is a lie. Three are top secret. Can you spot the false statement?

The list:

1. I do not edit this blog. What you see is each day is usually a first pass, and the errors found on the site are sometimes pretty funny.

2. Things not discussed on this blog—politics, gun control, religion, sex. Why not? Just take a peek at the bloodbath known as Facebook and you’ll see why I choose to not wade into a battle that no one could possibly win.

Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 10.06.26 AMI choose to stick to reporting facts. No choosing sides. Just plain old fact.

By the way, thanks to all the insane gnashing of teeth and bickering and name-calling and fake news, I’ve stopped reading Facebook posts. Nada. Nothing. I surrender. The hatred won. So I’m sorry if I’m missing your good news, but I prefer to remember my friends as, well, my friends. I still post news to social media, but to subject myself to seeing friends at each other’s throats, calling one another ever vile name in the book … no thanks.

So no more reading things on social media for me. Not for a while.

3. I started this blog in January, nine years ago, and I’ve missed only a couple of days of offering new articles. I even wrote and posted a morphine-induced article mere minutes after waking up from major neck surgery. However, I missed yesterday. My excuse—tons of 2017 Writers’ Police Academy details to work out.

4. I enjoy music quite a bit, and I play, or have played several instruments, including guitar, bass guitar, drums, trumpet, tuba, french horn, and clarinet. Well, the clarinet thing was a passing fancy, but the others I’ve played with some degree of success. I’ve played guitar, bass, drums, and/or trumpet in numerous bands over the years. I sat first chair, first trumpet (soloist) in our concert band and with the marching and jazz bands.

I learned to play the trumpet in an odd way.

I played tuba in the junior high band (some of us younger folks also performed with our award-winning high school marching band). As odd luck would have it, we were scheduled to play for a homecoming parade and halftime show at a well-known university when the lead trumpet player became ill and couldn’t perform.

I’d never played the trumpet in public and really didn’t know how. Couldn’t even read the music since tuba sheet music is in written bass clef and trumpet is in treble, meaning the notes on the staff have differing values (a note on the staff for a trumpet, while located in the same spot, is different than a note in the same position when played on a tuba).

20170201_102207A tiny bit of music theory here, to help you better understand how complex this situation was for me:

  • The five lines (above) are called a “staff.”
  • Those lines and the spaces between represent different pitches.
  • With a blank staff we can’t tell what notes to play, right? So composers use Clefs to mark which notes correspond to individual lines and/or spaces. The Treble Clef (pictured above, is also known as the G Clef) and the Bass Clef (also pictured above) is the F Clef. By the way, I drew both clefs on the same staff. This was merely to illustrate how they appear on sheet music. In the real world, the two clefs would not appear together on the same staff.

The Treble Clef spirals around the second line from the bottom. This spiral tells us that notes on this line are G.

notenames-1

The Bass Clef has two dots, above and below the second line from the top. The dots indicate that this line is F.

bassclef-notenames-1

Clear as mud, right? But, is it merely fuel to assist in a convincing lie? 🙂

Anyway, the band director came to me, extremely distraught, and asked if I thought I could play the trumpet parts if he wrote the valve positions (which valve to press for each note) beneath the notes.

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 1.59.16 PM

We had two trumpet-heavy songs to perform, both by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass—A Taste of Honey and Tijuana Taxi. So there I went, marching with the band (left, right, left, right, and so on, lifting my knees parallel to the ground and toes pointed down) with a piece of sheet music attached to the lyre hooked to my borrowed horn.

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 2.10.20 PM

Trumpet with lyre attached, holding sheet music.

Before handing me the sheet music, the band director used a pencil to mark the valve positions for each note on the page. Otherwise, I had no clue which note was which.

This is similar to what I had to go by, tiny sheets of music marked with crude drawings of valve positions and note names. And I had to decipher this in real time while marching!

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 3.02.49 PM

 

Anyway, I got through it and, remarkably, we won the first place award for best marching band in the parade. The halftime show was also a success, in spite of having to change the routine a bit since I was then in a new position.

With knees knocking and fear plucking every nerve, I played a trumpet solo, right there on the 50 yard line at a major U.S. university. Remember, this was my first time in public playing a trumpet, and I did not know how! But I’ve always been ready for challenge. However, I’m sort of done with challenges these days. Now, I opt for quiet, calm, and peace. Except, of course, during the Writers’ Police Academy! By the way, my switch to trumpet became a permanent move, from that day forward.

5. Denene and I once owned a really nice gym, a remodeling company, a music store, and a computer business. We’ve also owned rental property. and even that time

6. I enjoy small woodworking projects, when I have the time. I have also been known to do larger jobs, such as room additions and roofing. I made these a while back.

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7. I was once in a nice restaurant, enjoying a delicious bowl of clam chowder, when one of the Oak Ridge Boys, who was also at our table, started singing to my wife, Denene.

8. I, unlike you guys, knew prior to showing the video at the WPA, that Michael Cudlitz (star of The Walking Dead, Southland, and the Band of Brothers), was not wearing pants when he shot the recording announcing the winner of the Writers’ Police Academy Golden Donut Short Story Contest. He’d forgotten to do the video for us, but remembered it after he’d gone to bed. So he got up, slipped on a shirt, and … well, I’ll bet you view the video differently now!

9. I once taught self-defense and rape prevention to college students. The program was part of the schools’ orientation for new students.

10. I taught business math at a Virginia High School. Deciding it would be safer and less stressful to work as a police officer, I made the change.

11. I was a Boy Scout camp counselor for a few years. My jobs during that time included teaching archery and rifle and shotgun, and overseeing some of the daily operation of the camp dining hall. I also served as camp bugler.

12. I haven’t fired a gun in over 15 years.

13. I have a tattoo of Mickey Mouse.

14. I, my brother, and a friend won a karaoke contest. Our song? “Stop, in the Name of Love” by The Supremes.

15. My brother, the same friend, and I were fishing in a narrow but deep river. I tossed out my line, hoping to catch a nice large-mouth bass. When I made the cast, the lure went up and over a tree branch before coming to a stop four feet above the surface of water. Unsure how I was going to retrieve the lure, we began to paddle closer to it to try. Suddenly, a huge bass leapt from the water and swallowed the lure, leaving the large fish dangling from the line, like a yo-yo at the bottom of a long string. Just as I was about to grab the fish (the largest of the day, by the way) the bass let go and fell into the water, never to be seen again.

16. I was a high-jumper and sprinter on my high school track team.

17. For extra money, I once worked a part-time job where I repaired damaged (new, and empty) wooden caskets.

18. A doctor once told me I was at the end of my life and I should get my affairs in order, immediately. However, I lived.

19. I have worked as a laborer, pulling tobacco and picking cotton from sunup to sundown. My pay was $3 per day plus meals, one Pepsi, and a package of snack crackers. I worked on this farm for an entire summer, vowing each day to never, ever do it again.

20. I can write forward with my right hand and backward (mirror image) with my right … at the same time.

20170201_090748Hey, DaVinci could do it too. If it’s good enough for him … Or, are we both lying about this unusual ability?

21. I was called to assist with catching a guy who’d overpowered a wiry jail officer to escape his cell. When I went in the back (that’s what we called going inside the high security area) the prisoner was standing next to a supply room throwing rolls of toilet tissue at the skinny and distraught jailer who was trying to catch him. The prisoner was 6′-5″ and the jailer was 5′-6″ and weighed 120 lbs. on a heavy day. Hilarious sight.

So that’s it for me. Were you able to use your highly-honed detective skills to spot the false “fact?”

What about you? What’s one thing we don’t know about you? Remember, no politics, gun control, religion, or sex. Hmm … omitting those topics might leave some people with nothing to say … 🙂

Just in case …

 

 

 

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