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I know I lean pretty heavily on deus ex machina in my policing, but damnit, I get results!

“Chief, there’s something you should know about me, and, frankly, I’m a little surprised you hadn’t figured it out for yourself just yet: I’m not that type of cop,” I told him, with a bit more zip in my tone than he might’ve been expecting. “You’ve been shaking your head at my unorthodox ways for the last 25 years, and—even though I’m sure you’re well aware that I probably threw the god darn rule book out the window about eight standard procedural steps ago—you should know by now to never, ever doubt me.”

“Kid,” the chief solemnly replied, after a heavy pause. “You’re the best damn thing to come through this department since handcuffs. S***, even if I have to ‘squint’ a little bit when I’m reading your reports, or lie through my teeth in front of a grand jury, it’ll always be for the good of the department. Even if it kills me, deep down, I know that. How couldn’t I? Because f*** if you don’t plain get results. Hell, I might have to choke down a few more antacids than my gastroenterologist might recommend in order to tolerate your antics, but I’m sure the good lord can abide me fudging on the rules a little bit, as long as it gets that abused toddler out of that cellar, or that out-of-control oil tycoon to reap some consequences from his actions.”

“Hey,” I sternly shot back, staring as deeply into his regretful eyes as he’d allow me, “None of that could happen without you, Chief. You’ve been championing me every step of the way, and if I were any more appreciative, I’d be a Hallmark card.”

He turned away from me, and, after placing his hands on his hips and exhaling deeply, stared out reflectively into the darkened city distance through his sixth story corner-office window. “Sure, I might’ve helped you out a few times, but who wouldn’t have? If I hadn’t been fortunate enough to catch a few lucky breaks my own along the way, and this department were nothing more than a conveyor belt with a rotating cast of 6‘1’’, 200 pound pieces of over-promoted policeman meat on it, you’d be thanking whichever bozo HAD made it into this office for helping you out. Who the hell am I? Sometimes, I feel like nothing but a glorified pimp. What difference have I ever made that someone else couldn’t have?”

“Listen,” I admonished him, this time even more brusquely than the last. “Listen to me!” His demeanor was one of an entirely defeated individual, and I realized that, in order to get even a semblance of my point across, I’d have to be forceful—something that neither he nor I would be any sort of comfortable with. I roughly grabbed him by the shoulders with one hand, turned him around, and slapped him across the face, in an attempt to “sober” him up. I drew myself in even closer, and animatedly used my right index finger to drive home my argument’s crux. “I know the city council slurps your gravy each and every time I land a high profile arrest, Chief. That stuff really brightens up a spreadsheet, and of course you’d be happy to accept some of the praise for evening out the heights of those nasty crime bar graphs. I’m well aware that you enjoy that attention—and I don’t blame you one bit. I’d do the same thing! I don’t care. Because, way before I had any sort of chops at all, you were ALWAYS behind me. The only reason I haven’t raised a fuss about not catching any of the big promotions is that I always knew that they went to the better man: you.”

We shared a moment, and, with my hand draped supportively around his shoulder, he attempted to fight back any embarrassing emotions potentially seeking release from his touched, quivering face. “You go out there and you fight like hell, kid,” he whispered, his voice catching ever-so-slightly. “You do that police wizardry I’ve come to expect, and when you triumph, I’ll be raising your arm in the air at the press conference. I promise.”

***

If things had gotten anymore sappy, we would’ve leaned in for a kiss right then, but he knew as well as I did that the clock was ticking on this case. Each second we spent dealing with our deep feelings was a crushing blow to my likely success rate, and with all the triumphs I’ve had over the years, one ugly truth I’ve noticed is that every failure now feels more and more personal than the last. And, since my methods do happen to be a bit outside-the-box, I’m always left wondering what other completely ridiculous tactic I should’ve tried (or allowed to be tried on me).

Although I’d had this case for close to eight days already, I had avoided looking at any formal reports or casework up to this point, because that research can oftentimes cloud my good fortune, or make me question my instincts. The victim, who was named Madison, or Kimberly, or something, had been abducted—I think—from her home, or school, maybe. That’s not important, really. What was important was the (still unknown to me) bizarre, completely undeserved, outlandish way I was going to solve this case.

(Oh, wait—I’m actually looking into the recent strain of foodborne illness that’s been killing people. I probably saw an Amber Alert for the other one, I guess.)

It all started when I was a rookie—back when junk like Hill Street Blues had poisoned my impressionable mind to believe that real police work was accomplished through, well, just that: actual work. Someone would make a street contact, or pour diligently over minute details in related casework files, or set up a wire tap, in order to get the job done, and after progressing in a completely logical fashion, would eventually happen upon the true culprit. I used to aspire to this kind of technical perfection, blissfully unaware that the whole concept was bunk fiction, before stumbling, during my first case investigating an elusive serial killer—the first of many such future stumblings—upon the answers to his identity and whereabouts through an instance of blind, unjustifiable, thematically-unsatisfying coincidence.

In the two weeks the investigation had been under my control, I had nervously dodged each and every “by-the-book” thing I was supposed to have done, paralyzed at the thought of a mistake, and, while putting off doing any actual policing, had spent the majority of my time drinking and stress-eating alone in my apartment. I pined for the brain capacity to crack a difficult case like a Sipowicz, a McNulty, or a Paul-Gosselaar, but I found myself constantly freezing up, far too jittery to stick with any compelling leads I might have conjured up. In a particularly intense alcohol/sugar inebriation, I stumbled over to the public library one evening in a slurred haze, drunkenly meandered over to the computer area, and, hoping to play a fun game of computer “snake,” unfortunately found the archived newspaper program still up on the monitor. Attempting to exit the dull program, but still not entirely initiated into the whole computer craze, I randomly mashed a few buttons, and the screen scrolled through some microfilmed articles from about five years prior. The headlines, amazingly, were all related to my case in particular, and one entry even included a detailed composite sketch of the suspect. Just as I was beginning to zone—and, potentially, pass—out, my eyes wandered over to the first floor’s non-fiction section, where I clearly spotted the same man from the police drawing. After walking over and heroically arresting him—winning the approval of my colleagues and the citizenry at-large—I was certain that, in order to do any real good, I’d have to continue supressing my deeply-ingrained desires to use reason or hard work, and just let fate take care of everything for me. That might make me some sort of difficult maverick, but y’know what? I don’t give a damn.

And, after cracking a now-innumerable amount of previously uncrackable mysteries, I’m now more confident than ever that not doing your homework and being rescued by dumb, undue luck is the only way to go. It’s the only way I can work, in fact! It sure served me well that one time during the ominous lightning storm when my TV’s cable-line became scrambled and somehow replaced with that closed-circuit security camera footage in that rapist’s sex dungeon! And the fact that his home phone number and address were, for some reason, imprinted into the film’s time-stamp? Even better.

Or, sure, there was that other time when I was hiking in the woods and was abducted by disgruntled Indians, made to smoke their peyote whilst a prisoner in their teepee, and blessed with an extremely vivid hallucination—in which I conversed at length with a helpful (and, ultimately, quite pleasant) figment of an evasive suicide-cult group leader whom I had had in my sights. It was very useful to me when his personage casually slipped in—several times, in fact—the current mailing address and unlisted phone numbers of his group’s compound, and, luckily for my tired feet, it was less than a half-mile away from the Indians’ dwelling!

Or, yeah, even that other time, when that prolific arsonist was in line directly in front of me at the supermarket, bragging about his exploits in greatly specific detail to the young Albertson’s employee operating the register, during which time he casually announced the exact date and location of his next target, in addition to the unrelated—but still useful—GPS coordinates of a notorious meth lab. The cumulative lesson I’ve learned from these sorts of cases is to never depend on my own ingenuity or the help of others in solving crime. Does this strategy make me some sort of righteous iconoclast? And, even if it does, what do I care?

Sure, I still keep my ear to the street, like any good cop would, but that’s simply because of that one time when I literally did that—after losing my keys down a storm drain—and discovered a high-profile kidnapping victim tied up in the depths of the sewer, holding a laminated business card belonging to her tormentor. And even then, that *exact* situation has only presented itself to me, like, THREE more times! Talk about a total time waster!

***

The longer I go not finding the root cause of these mysterious poisonings, the more innocent people will lose their lives. That’s not something any good cop wants on his conscience, no matter how many lives he’s saved in the past.

Ah, never mind—scratch all that. While I was having my morning bagel just a second ago, a ghost appeared and filled me in on what’s been going down. Mentally-deranged produce farmer, apparently. Score! What a satisfying end to this troubling mystery.





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