Detective puts on his rookie partner with tale of a ploy that solves 99% of crimes
The 99% SolutionHouston Detective-Sergeant Eddie Myles caught the squeal while he was at lunch in a Mexican taqueria joint on Shepherd in the Heights. Eddie loved Mexican food, especially if it was cheap and authentic, despite what it did to his digestive system for the remainder of the day.
Myles, like so many southerners, was a beefy man, with a big belly and massive arms and legs, but he was also surprisingly agile and hard as a rock. Like most cops, who were liable at any time to be involved in activities that ruined their clothes, Eddie wore outfits that might charitably be called "blue-light specials." Today, he wore a rumpled brown sports coat, a yellow golf-shirt and khaki chinos along with rubber-soled police shoes.
He and his new partner, Phil "Spike" Jones had spent the morning and early afternoon in a fruitless search for a snitch who might have some information on a car-jacking case. On their way back to the office, they'd decided to go Code Seven and make up for the lost lunch hour. Jones, a neat, slight young man took off his gold wire-rimmed glasses and observed his partner with mild distaste.
"Eddie, you're getting the enchilada sauce on your shirt."
"Thanks, Rook." Myles dabbed absently at his ample midsection with a paper napkin, managing to smear the orange-brown gravy into an even larger Rorshach blot. "Now where was I?"
"I asked you if you had any special little tricks when you were investigating a case?" Jones had revealed an almost obsessive rookie urge to learn the ropes from the veteran Myles, not realizing this was a dangerous opening for one of the best practical jokers in HPD. "You know, where you could..." He paused lamely, not wanting to seem like a complete dork.
Myles broke in, "Where I could pull a rabbit out of the hat like Ellery Queen and reveal the identity of the murderer, right?"
Eddie gave Jones a knowing look and a wink, like he had a dark secret to keep. Eddie, like any good angler, knew a hungry fish when he saw one. The rookie rose to the bait like a speckled trout to a plastic shrimp in Galveston Bay.
"Right, that's it," Jones said and moved forward eagerly. "Some special trick or trap I could use when I'm questioning a suspect."
"Wee...ll, I don't know, Spike, you just got your shield." He watched Jones face fall and gave the lure a little twitch. "You know I'd like to help you out, but the Ell-Tee wouldn't like me showing a new guy somethin' that ain't approved by the department..."
"The Lieutenant wouldn't have to know."
Eddie spotted a swirl in the water near his lure.
"I swear I wouldn't say a word to anyone, not even to anyone else in the squad."
A blissful smile spread over Eddie's face as he envisioned taking care of that chore himself--and the days, possibly weeks if he was lucky, of practical jokes that the men in the unit would share at the expense of the hapless, clueless Jones. "I suppose I could start you out easy, maybe one of the simplest methods..." he managed to put just the right amount of doubt in his voice and the bait dangled.
"Come on, Eddie, don't be an asshole. We're partners. Let me in on it, give me a break."
Snap. Eddie set the hook.
"OK. You win. The first technique you gotta learn is to put the old 99% Solution on the perps."
"I never heard of anything like that," Jones said doubtfully.
Not too surprising, thought Eddie, since I just made it up. He'd have to get out of the explanation for the present and figure out what it meant later. "Yeah, well, we don't want it getting out to the general population. If John Q knew we were using it, well..."
He spread his hands widely, palms up, as though asking for Heaven's understanding of the policeman's constant delimma--how far to go in getting a conviction.
Myles couldn't stop himself from grinning. He covered by picking up a taco and shoving it into his mouth. It didn't matter, he thought, that he hadn't really given Jones anything, just led him on. He'd found over the years that people frequently interpreted statements or questions, even unasked questions, for themselves, and then built stories around them. He'd let Jones think about it while he munched. Then Eddie broke into a contented smile and looked onto the platter for something else to raise his cholesterol. He had an idea about how to run the 99% Solution gag on Spike.
Eddie's moon face changed to a frown, however, when his pager went off, stopping him as he was about to bite into a huge burrito, dripping with chili sauce and hot salsa. It was his office. He decided the call could wait a while; the burritos might get cold. So it was several minutes before he returned the call to the Lieutenant, while finishing his third beef and bean burrito.
"Hey, Ell-Tee, this is Mygrragpmf. What's up?"
"Dammit, Myles, just once I'd like to talk to you while you weren't eating in my ear."
"Yeah, but then you'd have to quit calling me during my so-called lunch hour. Stop breaking my balls and tell me what you got."
"Another car-jacking. Sounds like your boys...but this time they killed a woman."
"Damn. I knew they'd get to it sooner or later. Where's the scene?"
"Out off Memorial. 10300 Blue Lake Way off the 9800 block of Memorial Drive. The vic is Mrs. Virginia Anderson. Husband was in the car with her when it went down."
"Shit. That's tough," Myles said. He paused. "Blue Lake Way. I'm not familiar with that. You sure it isn't in Hunter Creek township jurisdiction?"
"Apparently not. 911 sent them out first, but they called back and got it straightened out. Our blues are on the scene."
"Terrific. Them rent-a-cop graduates they got out there at Hunter Creek probably ruined all the forensics at the scene."
"Well, get the hell on the road and see what you can salvage. But it looks like the eyewitness has already IDed the perp as one of the guys you been working on. Call me later."
"Right Ell-Tee. Soon as I finish my burrito. Buuurrrrrp!"
Myles had deliberately hawked up a big belch into the phone, knowing it bugged his boss. He was rewarded with the sound of the phone slamming down at the other end of the connection and smiled to himself over his small victory.
Lt. Chambers was one of the new breed with a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Houston and an MA from the John Jay School in New York. He'd made Lieutenant in the fastest time of any previous Houston police officer, but had spent very few years in the field. A lot of veterans like Myles didn't think he'd paid his dues.
Eddie Myles, on the other hand, had worked his way up to the Detectives gold shield in an unusual way. He was dyslectic and had trouble with reading and police forms. His futile attempts to pass the competitive exams to move up from patrol officer were the stuff of nightmares for him.
But he was good with people, and this made him good at police work. Over the years he'd made the patrol area in the tough Telephone Road area into his private preserve. In an era when most cops merely cruised the mean streets of Houston at maximum speed, Myles infuriated his partners on patrol by frequently stopping and chatting with the neighborhood residents and police characters, including the small-time dealers, prostitutes and pimps that made Telephone Road one of the sleaziest streets in the city.
His gold shield came as a reward when he solved a series of liquor store robbery/killings because of his contacts in the neighborhood. Several citizens, who had been befriended or helped by Myles, gave him information which led to a shoot-out in a run-down motel. Myles was wounded, but managed to take out both the shooters. Along with a decoration for heroism--and an "attaboy" in his personnel file--a promotion to detective was ordered by the Chief.
Not surprisingly, it turned out Myles had a knack for detective work. After a few years, he had the best closure record of any detective on the force. Because of his ability to work the streets, he was especially effective on violent crimes like armed robbery, rape and murder. That was why he'd been put in charge of a special task force to catch the violent band of car-jackers that were terrorizing the wealthy suburban area of Houston.
Eddie returned to the table and punched his new partner on the arm. "Let's go, Spike. Got another 'jacking' case way the hell out on Memorial that looks like our guys. This time our perps went the distance. Killed some woman."
Jones looked at his watch and grimaced. "Shit! Three oclock." The rookie detective got to his feet and followed Eddie out the screen door of the taqueria. He moaned, "Man, the kids are at camp this week, and I was thinking about finishing up the shift, going home at a decent hour for once, and playing hide the weenie with the old lady."
"Dont worry about it, Rook. She's probably already got a date. Beside, we're here to Protect and Serve! Remember?
Jones made a vulgar gesture to his crotch. "Protect and Serve this!"
"Shouldn't be a problem, Rook," Myles said unctuously and rolled his eyes. "Big ones, like mine, are one thing, but I seen you in the showers..."
"Oh, fuck off, Eddie."
Myles grinned. Weren't many rooks that could compete in a "dissing" match with an old vet, he thought, as he got into the unmarked car on the passenger side. Eddie had seniority and always made Jones drive.
"Hey, you didn't finish telling me about the 99% solution," said Jones as they pulled into Shepherd and headed toward Memorial Drive.
"Later, Rook. When we ain't on the job. Put the bubble machine on the roof, and let's light it up."
Jones put his foot down on the accelerator and the unmarked Chevrolet leaped forward. On their way out Memorial drive, the two detectives reviewed their cases, going over the information they had about the vicious team of car-jackers. Murder represented a major escalation in their M.O. Although they had terrorized and beaten several people after following them to their homes, so far the jackers had limited themselves to robbing their victims without the use of weapons. This was the mark of pros who knew that additional years were added to a sentence for armed robbery. They were vicious, but they weren't stupid. Until now.
Memorial Drive curved through tall pine woods filled with homes of well-to-do suburbanites. Luckily, the meandering thorofare was not yet filled with traffic from homeward bound accountants, lawyers, oil men, computer engineers, and "bidness" men that made up the neighborhoods that bordered it. At this hour of the afternoon only a few wives, hurrying home from picking up kids at school, and high school daredevils passing on the curves, disturbed their ride westward into the blazing summer sun.
There weren't many houses on Blue Lake Way. It was a short street that ended in a private park with a small lake for the residents' use. The multi-acre lots were divided by brick walls, protecting the privacy of the large elegant homes set among the pines. When they drove down the street looking for the Anderson house, it wasn't hard to find. Looking terribly out of place in this affluent area, three pale blue Chevrolet police cars with flashing lights, and an ambulance from the coroners office, signaled another tragedy, another break in the slender bonds that held society together.
They pulled up behind the ambulance, parked, and then ducked under the yellow tape of the police line. The house, a modern version of an antebellum Tara, was set well-back on the lot. Leading to it, a long brick driveway was framed by beds of groundcover and ivy along the brick wall. A knot of people surrounded a dark blue Lexus sedan that was parked near the front of the house. As the detectives walked toward the car, they were met by Patrol Sgt. Al Russo from Memorial Division that handled crime in the area.
"Glad you guys finally made it. Stop off for a quickie?" asked Russo. He and Myles were old friends from the police bowling league.
"Yeah, well, we were going to..." said Myles, "...But, ya know something, Al, your wife must be a great cook." He paused and watched Russos head jerk before delivering the zinger. "We went by your place and your yard was full of truckers, lining up at the back door, and I hear they always know the best places to eat. So we didn't wait."
"Asshole," said Russo in admiration.
"Hate to be the one to bring the news, Al." Myles got down to business. "What's the story here?"
"We got second call. 911 sent the Hunter Creek cops out first. Nobody checked the city limits signs 'til they got out here. Then they called us in. I can't vouch for the integrity of the scene." He shook his head at the inept work some parts of the department bureaucracy indulged in on a daily basis. "Eyewitness is John Anderson, husband of the 'vic', Virginia Anderson." He pointed out a man on his knees, crying. "That's him over there by the body. Says the perps came out of nowhere. Didn't see a car following him. Guy jumped 'em as soon as they stopped in their driveway. Anderson gave him his wallet. Wife started screaming. Perp reached through the window and shot her. Then the perp ran and jumped in getaway car. So far, no one on the block saw anything. End of story." He moved toward the car, then turned back and added, "Oh, one thing more. We found the empty wallet on the street with all the money gone."
"OK. We got it covered." Myles surveyed the quiet street. Only a few neighbors were out in the street, watching the police drama with ghoulish interest. Unlike a poor neighborhood, where people flocked to a crime scene like it was entertainment put on for their benefit, affluent people generally stayed in their houses, as though any association with crime might somehow contaminate their lives. "It don't look like it'll be a problem keeping the crowds out of the way, so you can let most of your guys go."
"Check. Thanks, Eddie. I 'preciate it." The "blues" were always short of men at afternoon drive-time when most of the freeways were crowded and accidents often involved multiple-car pileups with traffic jammed up for miles. The sergeant moved off to take care of his men. The crime scene, except for the few blues necessary for maintaining its security, was now the responsibility of the detectives and the coroner's office.
"Spike, I'll talk to the husband. You check with the Doc, and see if he can give us anything useful right now."
The two detectives moved toward their objectives. Myles scrutinized the husband as he approached the man. He was now standing on the grass next to the driveway, looking at the body of his wife. She was slumped out of the passenger door of a Lexus whose right side-window was covered with a spray of red and gray. The forensic team from the coroners office were carefully placing plastic bags on the dead woman's hands.
"I told you she didn't touch the man, didn't resist at all," Anderson sobbed as Myles walked up. "She didn't have time to do anything before that animal shot her," he said in a plaintive voice.
"Just doing my job, Sir, " said the black technician.
"Mr. Anderson? I'm Detective Myles." The two men exchanged handshakes, and Myles put his hand on Andersons arm to steer him away from interfering with the ME team. "I'll be in charge of the investigation of your wife's death."
"I just can't believe it. She's dead!"
"Yessir, I know it's a shock. We'll want a formal statement later, Mr. Anderson, but could you tell me what happened."
"I've already told the other policemen. Twice. Did you know those imbeciles at 911 sent out the wrong police department?"
"Yes, Sir. I understand a mistake happened, and I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but if you'll cooperate we can get ..."
"Inconvenience! My wife's been lying there..." he stretched his left wrist out of the left arm of his gray Armani suit and checked a gold Piaget watch, "...for more than two hours. Inconvenience indeed!"
Myles noticed Anderson's suit, dark blue foulard tie, and blue oxford-cloth button down and realized the man's attire was right out of the "Dress for Success" book Spike kept showing him. The contrast between his outfit and Anderson's was a class statement between the workig class and the elite. To keep things in perspective, Eddie always looked for a flaw in the packaging, but this time the only thing ruining the Anderson's "look" was a slight bulge that looked like a handkerchief or something stuck in his pants pocket. That and an unmistakable stain of gunpowder residue on the right side and arm of the suit. He don't know it yet, but he'll never be able to wear that suit again, thought Eddie.
"Well, Mr. Anderson, I realize it's difficult to go back over this again right now, but if you want us to catch the person that shot your wife, you're going to have to forgive our routine. You see, every little bit of information helps us get the investigation underway that much quicker..."
"Yes, yes, yes! I understand. It's just that I'm so upset. Do you think you'll be able to catch the man who did this? Pardon me for asking, but are you a good detective?" He stopped in confusion, realizing he'd just insulted the detective. "I'm...I'm sorry. That didn't come out right. I just want to know if he'll be brought to justice. I want to see him die!"
"No offense taken. I don't mean to brag, but on cases like this," he paused and took a big breath, "I have about a 99% solution rate. So don't worry. I'll solve it." An unexpected, mighty, belch exploded out of Eddie's mouth, permeating the hot, still air with the fetid scent of re-cycled onions, garlic and chili powder. "Excuse me," Myles said as Anderson recoiled away from him.
"My Lord! Ninety-nine percent! I suppose you need all those details, but I really don't feel like..."
The man swayed on his feet, and Myles noticed he was pale. Perhaps he should cut back on the Mexican food during business hours, he thought, but then again, it could have been worse...could've cut a big...better not go there. And get this over before he got tickled and was in trouble.
"I'll try to keep this short, Mr. Anderson. Tell me what happened."
"My wife came to my office to give me a ride. My Mercedes is in the shop, and we were supposed to pick it up, but it wasn't ready when I called them, so we came on home. I didn't want Alice to have to make a second trip." He choked. "If I had called beforehand I could have taken a cab, and she wouldn't be..." He pulled a silk handkerchief out of his vest pocket with his left hand and blew his nose.
"Your office is located where?"
"Wuensch, Anderson and Wuensch, CPAs, in the Empire building downtown. Why does that matter?"
"Just checking out where you came from. Most of these car-jackers spot their victims at classy restaurants or high-dollar shopping malls. Go on."
"Yes. Well, we drove home, and ..."
"She picked you up. Was she driving?
"No. I always drive when we're together. She was on the passenger side."
"Fine. Go ahead."
"There's really not much more I can tell you. It all happened so fast."
"Take your time."
"Well, I pulled into the driveway and stopped right over there where the Lexus is."
"Any reason you didn't pull to the back of the house by the garage?"
"My wife has bad arthritis. Its easier to get her out of the car there by the sidewalk and use the front door."
"OK. You stopped and...?"
"As I was opening my door, this young black man appeared and stuck a gun right in my face."
"What kind of gun?
"A big one."
"Yessir, I imagine any gun would look pretty big at that moment, but was it a revolver or a semi-automatic?
"I dont know anything about guns. I just don't know. I've never owned a gun. Then the man said..."
"We'll get to that in a moment. Think back. Can you remember what he looked like at that pont in time? He must have been leaning down right next to you."
"He looked just like that drawing of one of those men that's been running every day in the Chronicle. The one with the mustache. Almost a perfect likeness. 5'8" tall and 160-170 pounds."
"Uh huh. You didn't see anyone else."
"No. Just the one."
"OK. Go on."
"Like I said. He jumped in my face with a gun and yelled something like, 'Give me the money.' I was so scared I'm afraid I can't remember every little detail exactly."
"Uh huh. What happened next?"
"I said something like 'Don't hurt us. You can have my money.' And then I got out my wallet and gave it to him. That's when it happened, when he shot my wife I mean."
"How much in the wallet?"
"Three hundred and eighty-nine dollars." He paused for a moment and then snarled, "What does it matter how much money I lost? I don't care about the money. My wife is dead!"
"Just checking. Part of the routine. Sorry. Go on."
"Well, about that time, my wife started screaming. Then he reached past me into the car and just shot her. I couldn't believe it! Look, there's powder burns on my right coat sleeve from when he shot at her." Anderson showed the detective the sleeve of his expensive suit, and Myles noticed the tell-tale gunpowder residue pattern went from left to right.
"Yes, Sir. Seems like you had a real close shave. He didn't try to shoot you next?"
"No. He ran away. I couldn't move. I guess I was in shock. Thats the last I saw of him. I called 911 on my cell phone."
"Right! Mr. Anderson, tell me something."
"Why did you kill your wife?"
****Later that night, after booking the blubbering murderer into jail for premeditated homicide, the two detectives were having a beer at a cop spot on Main. Myles took a long swig from his Bud and sighed.
"Know sumthen', Rook? A blue-collar guy goes home, had a hard day working in a hunnert degree heat, and his wife gives him some shit, I can see how he might blow her away. Don't agree with it, but I can see it." He took another drink and then pointed his finger at his partner. "But rich dumb-asses, who try to pull off the perfect crime, piss me off. They watch NYPD Blue or CSI a few times and think they're smarter than us, that we don't know our business."
"Eddie, you gotta tell me how you did it. Man, that's the weirdest thing I ever heard of. You talk to the guy for five minutes tops and collar him for the perp. He had a good story too, what with all the car-jackings going on."
"Well, there were a lot of things that didn't add up. Our perps wouldn't have left him with that gold Piaget watch. Man, that's their main stock in trade since most of the rich folks they prey on are credit card people and don't carry a lot of cash. And I didn't buy the perp killing one vic and then leaving a witness who'd been almost eyeball-to-eyeball with him."
"Yeah, it didn't sound like our perps MO either, sine they've been too smart to use guns so far. But still, it coulda been them or someone else. So, what else gave Anderson up?"
"Anderson claimed not to know anything about guns, but he wanted to explain about the gunpowder residue on his coat, right where it would be if he shot her left-handed across his body. And I noticed he was a lefty when he went for his hanky." He nodded wisely and took another sip of beer.
"I dunno, Eddie. That's pretty thin." "Then there was the money in the wallet--he knew exactly how much he had in his wallet--so I figured he must have counted it after he emptied the wallet and threw it on the street. Just like a damn cheapskate accountant."
"Yeah, Eddie, but he could have had another good reason for knowing how much money he had."
"Maybe, but I noticed a bulge in his pants that looked like a roll. When I challenged him to empty his pants pocket, and told him we were going to search the ivy bed for the gun, he broke."
"Man, you took a big chance. Anderson might've had juice down town at City Hall."
"Nah, Rook." Myles dismissed the notion with a wave of his beefy hand. "I just put the old 99% solution routine on him."
"99% solution? You used it? You never did finish telling me about it, how it works."
"Hell, Spike. Every cop knows that ninety-nine percent of all murders are committed by perps with a relationship to the vic. So I played the percentages. I told him that I solve ninety-nine percent of my cases and watched his reaction. Then I sprung the question on him, hit him with it direct, like I got it all figured out. You'd be surprised how often it works!"
Eddie Myles shook his head in wonder. "Fuckin' amateurs." Then Eddie waved his hand to the waitress. "Hey...hows about a beer for a couple of hard-workin' detectives over here?"