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16 Apr

Crime scene investigation – The other day I flipped on OCN to catch CSI. I don’t watch a lot of television, but I do enjoy CSI. Fortunately for me, we get OCN. OCN stands for “Orion Cinema Network,” and they bill themselves as “Korea’s No. 1 Channel.” I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, but they do show a lot of good stuff. They show a lot of movies and popular U.S. shows (like CSI) dubbed in Korean. What’s even better is that they will show two episodes a week, rather than the traditional one (Korean television dramas run two episodes a week, almost always on consecutive days, and OCN mimics this when they show American programs). At present, they are showing the first season of CSI on Monday and Tuesday and the second season on Wednesday and Thursday, for a total of four episodes a week. So what if these shows were on in the U.S. several years ago—they’re new to me.

“The closest I’ve ever come to real-life police work was a very minor role in a police investigation.”

Anyway, one of the slightly annoying things about OCN is the odd starting times for the programs. The CSI episodes on Monday and Tuesday start at 19:40, while the Wednesday and Thursday episodes start at 20:50. Also, they like to shuffle the start times around, and sometimes these start times will change out of the blue. This is why I keep my eye on the OCN website, lest I miss my precious CSI.

This past Wednesday, though, I didn’t check the schedule, and I flipped on the TV to watch CSI—only to find Law & Order on instead. I decided to watch it, and it wasn’t bad. This is only the second Law & Order show I’ve seen, but already that detective guy (sorry, I can’t remember his name) is getting on my nerves. In both shows I’ve seen, he’s had “hunches” that have gone against what his superiors want him to push forward with. I’m guessing that’s a recurring theme, and I’m also guessing that it might get old quick if I were to watch the show on a regular basis. Or maybe I just caught two anomalies and the rest of the shows are different.

Watching Law & Order, though, provided an interesting counterpoint to CSI. In CSI, the detectives are mostly window dressing, except for a few notable exceptions (Jim Brass, for example). Grissom and his crew do all the real work, at least on camera. In Law & Order, though, the CSIs (I noticed that they call them CSU, which I’m assuming stands for Crime Scene Unit) are practically non-existent. In the episode I watched the other day, for example, one of the detectives said the she would have CSU search the house for traces of cyanide, and that was it. They didn’t even get any screen time. It’s kind of amusing, like watching two feuding parties telling their side of an argument.

I prefer CSI as a show (better characters, better filming, better stories, in my opinion), but I wonder if Law & Order isn’t a little closer to reality. I’m sure they both contain quite a good deal of fabrication and dramatization, of course—real-life police work is probably not always so dramatic. The closest I’ve ever come to real-life police work was a very minor role in a police investigation. Yup, that’s right. Yours truly was once involved in a police investigation. If it had been filmed as a CSI episode, I would have been that hapless civilian at the beginning of the episode who discovers that a crime has been committed and then proceeds to freak out. Then again, it would probably have taken Grissom and company only about ten minutes to solve the case. I doubt it would even warranted a minor storyline. Still, it was pretty cool at the time (after I got done freaking out), and I think it makes a good story.

First, a bit of background: when I was in high school, one of my neighbors ran the snack shop/store in the local alcoholic rehabilitation center, and she hired me to run the shop on weekends. It was fairly quiet there, with residents coming in every now and then to buy something (usually cigarettes—they used to joke about how they had hopped from one addiction to another... I was never sure whether I should laugh at that or not). There was one time when one of the residents went berserk and demanded that I give her twenty dollars worth of snacks for free, and then threatened me when I refused, but for the most part it was a very quiet and stress-free job.

One Sunday I opened up the shop and went behind the counter to open up the moneybox and get ready for my first customers. We didn’t have a cash register, just a metal, lidded box with compartments for the change and bills. This box didn’t have any latch or other device to keep it open, so I used to prop it open with a small cardboard box (the boxes that the banks put coin rolls in). When I closed the moneybox for the day, I took the cardboard box out and put it on top of the moneybox. This moneybox didn’t have a lock either, but there was only one door to the shop and that had a deadbolt lock.

Anyway, I walked behind the counter and immediately saw that something was wrong. The cardboard box was not on top of the moneybox. I looked around and saw it lying on the counter. I frowned—I always put the cardboard box on top of the moneybox, like clockwork. I opened up the moneybox and looked inside, but I couldn’t tell if there was any money missing. It looked like some of the piles might have been smaller, but I didn’t count the money at the end of each day (my neighbor took care of the books), so I had no way to know for sure. Still, I felt a knot deep in my stomach. Then I looked at our dollar bill cup—a mug that we kept on the shelf behind the counter that we used to hold a roll of dollar bills—and found it empty.

I grabbed the phone and called my neighbor. I was shaken, and for some reason my first thought was that my neighbor would suspect me. When I told her that we had been robbed, though, she said she would call the police and be right over. I closed the shop and tried to remain calm, thinking back over what might have gone wrong. The door had been locked when I came in that morning—I never failed to lock it, just like I never failed to leave the cardboard box on top of the moneybox. Yet only my neighbor and I had keys to the shop.

Then my neighbor arrived and told me not to worry, and we waited for the police to arrive. They sent a detective, and although I don’t remember much about him, I remember that he was very imposing. He also didn’t seem to be too passionate about our case. I guess petty theft doesn’t rank too high on a detective’s list of priorities. He just asked me some questions, took a quick look around, and then left. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

Later, though, another policeman arrived. He wasn’t a detective, and he seemed like a normal guy. I remember that he had a mustache and a friendly face. He wasn’t imposing, and he didn’t mind talking to a curious high school kid. At first I didn’t know why he was there—after all, the detective had already asked the questions and was presumably off somewhere solving the case. We told him that the detective had already been there, but he said he was there to follow up.

It didn’t take him long to find something out of the ordinary. On the wall just inside the door there were some small plastic shelves that fit into grooves in the wall. He pointed to the top shelf and, when we looked closer, we saw some white flakes on it. I had no idea what those flakes were, but then he pointed up at the ceiling. It was the same type of ceiling as the rest of the complex—square ceiling boards set in a metal frame. What I didn’t realize, though, was that these ceiling boards are not actually attached to anything. They just rest on the frame and can be removed very easily. I looked closer at the edge of the ceiling board above the shelves and saw that the edge had been worn away slightly. That was where the white flakes had come from.

“Do you think he climbed in through there?” I asked.

The policeman shook his head. “No. Those shelves are too flimsy. They would never support a man’s weight.”

I frowned, a little disappointed. For a moment it had seemed that the case might have been cracked, but now we were back at square one.

Our heroic policeman was undeterred, though. “Let’s take a look outside.”

We walked outside the shop. The hallway turned left once past the shop door, and across the hall was a utility closet. The policeman tried the handle and the door opened.

“Is this closet always open?” he asked.

My neighbor shrugged. “I don’t know. Probably.”

He went inside and emerged a moment later with a small ladder and a broom.

“Go back inside and lock the door,” he told me.

I went back into the shop and turned the deadbolt. I heard the familiar, reassuring click as the lock slid into place. Then I went behind the counter and sat down on the stool there. There was a muffled noise from the ceiling by the shelves, and then the ceiling board lifted up and more white flakes fell. A mustached face poked through and smiled. He carefully maneuvered the broom handle through the opening, and I watched in amazement as he reached across the room and flicked open the deadbolt.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

A moment later he opened the door and walked in, followed by my neighbor.

“Well, that’s how our guy got in. Now all we have to do is figure out who had access to this closet after working hours last night.”

I imagine it was a bit more complicated than that, but I was floored. The big, imposing detective has asked a few questions and left, and this “regular” policeman had looked around and solved the crime in no time at all.

You should be the detective!” I said.

He just smiled. I didn’t know at the time that detective was a rank, and you have to be promoted to it. I thought that it was just a job description, and the smart people who solved crimes got to be detectives. Not to disparage the detective assigned to our case, but he just didn’t seem all that enthusiastic about solving the case. Anyway, I had a new hero and a pretty cool story to tell my friends at school.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, they did catch the guy who did it. I imagine that was where the real detective work came in. They managed to track down a guy who had worked as a janitor at the center and had been fired recently. I’m not sure what evidence they had on him, but apparently he confessed to the crime and returned the money. Not much had been stolen, but it was still pretty exciting to see the case solved and brought to a successful conclusion.

Sure, nobody got killed, and it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as a typical CSI episode, but I can fantasize, can’t I? In my episode, Nick would spot and analyze the white flakes, Warren would make the connection with the utility closet, and then they would print all the broom handles in the closet, looking for prints on the wrong end of the broom (since it would have been held near the bristles). Our ex-janitor had no prior convictions, so they wouldn’t have gotten a hit in the database. They would have had to do some old-fashioned detective work, but eventually they would get around to our disgruntled ex-janitor. Nick would trick him into giving his fingerprints by offering him a glass of water, and the case would be solved!

Heh. Pretty pathetic for a CSI episode, but for a high school kid it was exciting to be a part of it, even if that part was a minor and passive one. All things considered, though, I’d prefer not to be robbed again. I guess I’ll just stick to CSI and hope my criminals stay on that side of the television screen.

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