If you’d noticed at all, here’s how you might have interpreted what happened outside my home recently: Oh, a car with out-of-state plates. Someone in the neighborhood must have guests. End of story.
But if you’re me and you read too many mystery novels, here’s how it would have gone. In fact, here’s a mercifully-shortened version of how it did go:
Day 1: Oh, a black car with out-of-state plates. Someone in the neighborhood must have a guest—just one. The car is too full for passengers. Maybe he’s moving. Yes, it’s a he; there’s a pair of men’s sneakers on the front seat. (I looked.) And he’s not a young guy; there’s a Reader’s Digest beside them.
Day 6: Interesting. The car hasn’t moved. That’s strange because the driver parked cockeyed and not entirely in the parking space, like he’d only planned to be gone a minute. Or maybe he was in a hurry to get out. I wonder why?
Day 12: Still there. Maybe the driver got out quickly because he was being pursued. He’s probably in the hills behind my house right now. I consult my calendar. He must have stopped here between 10 and 11:30 a.m. that first day because I was out then. If I’d been home, I would have heard brakes squealing and doors slamming—maybe even gun shots.
Day 30: Something is terribly wrong.
Long-term parking is illegal in that spot. But that’s not why I report the car, though it may be why some busybody once reported mine when I was parked in the same spot. I’m not a busybody; I’m concerned. I’ve seen too many episodes of Murder She Wrote.
If I were stuck in bed recovering from illness, I’d spend my days reading mysteries. When I got tired of reading, I’d watch the Hallmark mystery channel, and during commercials, I’d mute the TV, stare out my window and imagine suspicious activity in my neighborhood.
People who watch cooking shows cook and people who read Popular Mechanics work on cars. People who read mysteries see clues everywhere, or think we do.
I recently rode with someone who’s a little too proud of how clean his car is. But when I got in, I immediately noticed a single short hair on the dash. Without thinking I said, “Oh, you have a dog.” He looked insulted. But he admitted he has a dog.
When I watched a nurse put an IV in my arm before foot surgery, I noticed a tiny bubble in the tubing. I asked if that was dangerous. She assured me it wasn’t big enough to matter, but I’ve seen too many mysteries where a bubble in the old IV was the method for murder.
Unless it’s the 4th of July, every bang I hear is a gunshot. If I see a bag along the road, it’s loot dropped as a thief made his getaway. I’ve never found any loot, but I’ve picked up a lot of trash hoping it would be.
So, I don’t report the car because I think someone is getting away with a parking violation; I report it because I think someone is getting away with murder.
A police officer arrives. I watch out my window as he appears to run a check on the plate then sticks an orange sticker on the windshield. I know exactly what it is because I saw it on my car once, thanks to the busybody. Basically, it says move it or lose it.
Not long after that, a car drives up. A man gets out of the passenger seat, gets into the mystery car and drives away. If he fears for his life, he doesn’t show it. I’m still concerned though. There’s no way to know if he’s the car’s owner or the guy pursuing him. The officer didn’t bother to search the hills. Apparently, he’s never seen Murder She Wrote.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)