Trouble in Bakersfield
 

 

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                 Trouble in Bakersfield            

      Mystery Files: Detective Jonathan Barrett

      K. J. Griffin

 

      I arrived at the scene of the crime late in the evening, much to my displeasure. Being the lead detective for all of Bakersfield and the surrounding areas, allows little time for any extra-curricular activities. As I pulled my beat up rust-bucket of a car into the deserted parking lot, I sighed as I thought about the lovely brunette that would be waiting for me at my tiny little apartment.

      I’m not your usual detective; I work the private sector and am hired by the police as a consultant. Thus, I don’t conform to the dress code of police detectives, never-ever will you see me wearing a tie . Which explains why I stepped out of my car wearing blue jeans, blue t-shirt, and my customary LA Dodgers cap backwards. Take it from me there's no better showing of bravado than pulling up to a stop light, music blaring from your rust-covered Pontiac, with your cap backwards and your shades on. Women can’t get enough. The ultimate look of cool.

      Well . . . okay maybe it’s all the cool I can afford. Work with what you got. In an effort to look more dignified I turned the baseball cap forward facing. Much better.

      “Good to see you, Detective Barrett,” said a young police officer as he handed me a Styrofoam cup of steaming, heavily-caffeinated coffee. “Sorry to interrupt your evening, sir.” I was unfamiliar with the young officer and had to steal a glance at his name tag. 

      “Don’t beat yourself up…I was up to no good any how.” I lied. “What seems to be the problem that has so hastily called me from my evening, Officer Rory?” 

      “Reported stolen car, we recovered the vehicle here in this abandoned lot but the perp was gone.”

      “Surprise, surprise.”

      Officer Rory stifled a laugh and continued with his narrative. “The woman standing over there,” he nodded to his left, “is the victim. You’re gonna love her.” 

      “I usually do.” A young blond woman short in stature but apparently she made up for her physical lacking in attitude. She was simple, pleasing to the eyes and my knack for keen observations discovered the little butterfly tattoo on her lower back. Unable to control myself, a grin crept across my face followed by a not so clean thought. 

      “Mrs. Blanton,” A large rock was present on her left hand, “ I’m Detective Barrett. I need to ask you a couple of questions.”

      “Yeah, whatever. Can we hurry this up? I really need to go.”

      The ever so loveable California attitude of: I got places to go and things to do. Of course in reality, those of us who still reside there, know that in truth they have nothing of importance to do. “Why? You planning a bank heist or something?”

      “Listen here you pompous jerk, do your job and find out who stole my car.”

      “Fine. When was your car stolen?”

      “About an hour ago.”

      “Where were you?”

      She rattled off the name of a highly-polished, fancy French restaurant. I ignored this part and picked up the last bit. “Business dinner.”

      “That’s a ritzy restaurant. But then of course I would assume that you have a ritzy pay check as well.”

      “I can’t deny that.”

      “So what kind of business were you conducting over dinner?” I eyed her suspiciously. Mrs. Blanton was dressed for anything but a business dinner. Impressive short black skirt, low v-neck shirt, high heels, and red lipstick. Hair resting on her shoulders. 

      “That is impertinent to the matter at hand.”

      “Does Mr. Blanton know?”

      Her mouth dropped and her face began to fill with color. Rage was beginning to surface.

      “Simmer down. I won’t tell.” I whispered in her ear. Before she had a chance to inflict harm, I walked away. Time to get to work. Officer Rory had wasted little time in his investigation. Standing alongside his cruiser was three suspects, all of which had been picked up in the vicinity of the crime. Rory was convinced that one of these prime suspects had in fact stolen the car, but he was unsure which one was the true perp.

      Before interrogating the suspects I first searched the vehicle for any potential leads. The vehicle in question is a beauty! A silver SC 2008 hardtop Lexus luxury convertible; fully loaded. Probably, the first one off the lot. Inspecting the exterior of the vehicle the tall tale sign of auto theft was clearly visible- the license plate had been removed. 

      “Rory, did you dust for prints?”

      “Yeah, but came up empty.”

      “Did you take down the make and model?” This information is used for statistical purposes. 

      “Yes, sir. And we matched the VIN numbers, it is the stolen car.” Opening up the door, I comfortably sat down in the driver’s seat. The seat was reclined all the way back allowing plenty of leg room, which I so desperately need. The interior was just as beautiful as the outside slick black leather and all the accessories one could wish for. Performance perks include, but are not limited to; a 288 hp, 4.3 liter, V8 engine and can go from 0-60 in about five seconds. Sweet ride with a large price tag. 

      Turning the key so that the engine came to life I instantly fell in love with the purr that was emitted from under the hood. Great car. The radio was blaring some heavy metal rock something or another. I can’t say that I could make out the words, accept for the ever present explicit that was clearly spoken. 

      I’ll admit, I wanted to take it for a drive but I failed to think of a good reason to justify the want. Reluctantly I stepped out of the vehicle. Mrs. Blanton was waiting impatiently. If nothing else, this woman knew how to pick a great set of wheels.

      “Was the top down when the car was taken?”

      “No.”

      “You like the heavy metal, huh?”

      “Me? No way.”

      “Didn’t figure you for the type.”

      She began walking around the car, looking for any nick, dent, or scratch. The car had been unharmed, minus the plate removal. “If they had left a ding on my car, I would have kicked their ass.” I smiled as the scene played out in my mind. I have no doubt that this woman could follow through with the threat- she may be little but feisty as hell. It is now time to move to phase two of my investigation. 

      I commenced to interrogate each suspect separately. The first of which is Mrs. Banana. A short lady with gray hair and a heavily wrinkled face, and thin. Scary thin.   “I’m detective, Jonathan Barrett.” I held out my hand but she failed to take it. “Mrs. Banana, how old are you?”

      The old woman was clearly offended by the directness of my question. “Seventy-one, as if it’s pertinent to this situation.”

      “Didn’t mean to offend.”

      “What, the elderly are incapable of stealing a car? Or is it because I’m a woman?” 

      I laughed at the shrewdness of which she spoke. “You were picked up in the exact vicinity in which the car was originally stolen. What where you doing in the area?”

      “Walking Muffin.”

      “Who’s Muffin?” I was almost afraid to ask.

      “My Shih Tzu. She’s in the patrol car behind you.” I turned around and noticed the small white and gray dog sitting in the back seat of the cruiser. It began to yap excitedly at the sight of its owner. You know how they say pets look like their owners? Well, Muffin looked like her owner. Except without the wrinkles. Ugly dog. “If she gets heat stroke, I’ll sue you and the whole department.”

      Man this old bag is senile. “Don’t worry. You’ll be able to go in no time.”

      “You enjoy your job?”

      “Yes, for the most part.” I smiled in an effort to be friendly. Mrs. Banana is as cold as ice. 

      “You enjoy harassing elderly ladies?”

      “No.” Hastily, I added, “That’s all the questions I have.” I immediately left the lady before she could go into a tirade about the corruptness of the force. Poor, Rory. Mrs. Banana was taking her frustrations out on him. 

      Moving on.

      The second suspect is Scott Smith. If you were to look up the word punk in the dictionary, there would be a picture of this kid. Purple mohawk, a nose ring, spiked bracelet, baggy blue jeans complete with the chain in the pocket that serves no purpose whatsoever, and a black Metallica t-shirt. Can’t wait to hear the attitude that escapes his mouth. Rory had confiscated his back pack and I was sifting through its contents. A skateboard and he carried a lighter but no cigarettes. No gloves either.

      I removed a large wad of cash from within the pack and showed it to the young man. “Did your parents give you a little spending money?”

      “No. I earned that.”

      “How?” He began to fidget, beads of sweat rolled down his face. Unable to keep eye contact. 

      “We won’t dwell on that . . . right now.” At that precise moment I heard the word “ow” escape Officer Rory’s mouth, followed closely by the phrase: “You crazy old lady.” Peering over my shoulder, I caught the end of a struggle between Rory and Mrs. Banana. Evidently she wanted her dog, Rory refused, and she began to hit him with her purse. I began to rub my forehead in a slow circular motion. I’m really not in the mood for this crap. 

      “You should probably look at this, Jon.” Rory was rubbing his left arm as he handed me a piece of paper. Another officer who had showed up five minutes ago had apprehended the Banana. 

      “Were you assaulted?”

      “I swear she has a brick in her purse.” I laughed at the idea. The paper that I had been given was the rap sheet for Scott. It was lengthy and covered everything from vandalism to drug charges. 

      “Grand theft auto. You like to steal cars, Scott?”

      “That was an isolated incident. Never happened again.”

      “Sure. Now you’re a dealer.”

      Scot opened his mouth to protest but thought better of it.

      “What kind of trouble were you up to when the police apprehended you?”

      “Nothin’.”

      “Really? Then why did you run? Was it the drugs?”

      “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

      “The more elusive you are with your answers the more of a suspect you become. If you cooperate, we can work something out.” I paused for effect. “What were you doing?”

      “I’m not telling.” My temper began to rise. Taking a step closer I stared at the young man who returned the glare. He had to arch his neck up at me as he did so. I love being tall. My temper slipped away. 

      I had one more man to talk to before making judgment.

      “Detective Barrett.”

      “Matt Green.” He extended his hand and I accepted. “What can I do for you?”

      “My partner picked you up. Where were you off to?”

      “The liquor store up the street. I just got off work and was in the mood for a beer.”

      “I can sympathize with that. What kind of work do you do?”

      “Maintenance. For the apartments two blocks to the East.”

      “I know the ones.” I took a moment to study Mr. Green. Same height as I, short brown hair, brown eyes, California tan, wearing the standard maintenance attire, shirt sleeves rolled up, dirt and grime on his pants. His hands were clean as was his face. Most likely cleaned up before leaving work. So far his story seemed to check out. 

      “Do you have gloves on you?”

      “No, sir.”

      “Thanks for your time.”

      Hands in my pocket I walked over to confer with the young officer. On his left arm a bold dark bruise was forming. What a day.  “So did you come to a conclusion? Who stole Mrs. Blanton’s Lexus? Or do you need a couple of minutes to cipher through the testimony?”

      Taking a long sip of my coffee, the caffeine rushing through my veins. “I require no time. I knew from the very beginning who had stolen the car. This was an easy case to solve.” Or could it be that I’m just that damn good?  A smile crept across my face as the thought settled. It’s all right to be conceited when you can back it up. Five years as a detective and I have yet to meet my match.

      Maybe next time.

      But I wouldn’t bet on it.

      I clearly know who the perp is. The question is . . . ,do you? I’ll give you a moment to weigh in on the facts and evidence laid out before you, put the pieces of the puzzle together.

      Those of you whose magnifying glass and trench coat failed to discover the truth- do not fret- I will assist you and reveal the clue. Take five.

      Solution to the Crime: Who did it?

                  Matt Green. GUILTY!

      The clue:

            I was able to sit comfortably in the driver’s seat of the car. I am a tall man, but the owner of the car, Mrs. Blanton, is short. Mrs. Banana is a short old lady, and even though several clues point toward Scott Smith (the punk kid) he was also shorter than I. Frankly, the kid was too busy selling drugs. Matt Green was about the same height as me and therefore, when he got into the car he had retracted the seat back so that he had more leg room. 

      Think about this way: what’s the point of stealing a car if you can’t drive it? You’re stealing it, so why not be picky? Comfort first.