The Imperfect Crime

So there I was, sitting in my Barcalounger, wolfing down potato chips like there was no tomorrow. I had lost track of exactly how fast and furious I was eating because I had become so deeply engrossed in the “Sunday-Night-Made-For-TV-Movie-Mystery-Of-The-Week.” Then, by sheer chance, I looked up at the clock. With a bit of dismay I noticed there were only about five minutes left before the news was supposed to come on. I’m stunned to the point that my mouth hangs open, allowing a good deal of the potato chips that I was currently chewing to fall back out of my face and onto my lap. This is when I started yelling at the TV in hopes that “Detective Valor” would hear my advice.

“Look you idiot! We all know that the cleaning lady did it! Why are you trying to pin this whole mess on Bob-From-Accounting? Then the action pauses as the “worst-possible-announcement” flashes across the screen:

“To be continued…”

(Damnit!)

As much as this scenario pains me, it’s a pretty good illustration of just how much one can get lost in a good mystery. I think it’s safe to say, “I’m not alone.” TV sets, movie screens and library bookshelves are loaded with mysteries of all kinds.

As a kid, I read some Hardy Boys mysteries. I also enjoyed watching Scooby-Doo and Shaggy ride around town in their iconic “Mystery Machine.” It is noteworthy, however, that I did have enough self-respect to refuse watching any episode that included an appearance of “Scrappy” [shudder].

As my tastes “matured,” I became a fan of shows like “Colombo” and “Perry Mason” (the 80’s reboots, of course). I will also reluctantly admit that I watched a bit of Jessica Fletcher in “Murder She Wrote” (I’m not entirely proud of that).

Once I had kids of my own I tried to introduce them to reruns of “The Real Ghostbusters” and “Inspector Gadget.” That didn’t work out so well. They just ended up watching a lot of “Dora the Explorer” (Yes, “you’re the map,” we get it already!)

Even if you weren’t the type who enjoyed a “TV-Mystery-of-the-Week” or did any mystery reading, there’s a pretty good chance you have played a game of “Clue.”

[“It was Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with a lead pipe!]

I always thought it would have been fun to capitalize on the whole “mystery-game-concept” with some “not-so-politically-correct” versions of “Clue”….like perhaps, “The Mafia Edition.”

[It was Father Guido at “Funicello’s with piano wire.]

Or, how about the “police-cover-up” version of “Clue”?

[It was officer O’Malley at the doughnut shop with excessive force.]

I don’t know, maybe we don’t like mysteries that much. Alas, Colombo always got his man (some priggish guest star, no doubt). Scooby and Shaggy always managed to catch “The Phantom” with one of their ridiculous “Rube Goldberg” contraptions….and, Colonel Mustard never “got-away-with-murder” either.

All of our books, shows, games and, yes…all of our cartoons too, gave us a satisfactory ending. Even if a “to-be-continued” announcement made us wait until next week for the “exciting condlusion.” The mystery was eventually solved. We are left with a feeling of completeness, which is good, for the most part…(sigh)…I guess…

Unless…

Unless you happen to be involved in a quest to lay eyes on what is known as “The Perfect Crime.”

I have always been facinated by such a concept as, “The Perfect Crime.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to figure out how to commit the perfect crime, I’m just intrigued by it (yeah, let’s go with that).

Don’t let the irony of that statement get lost on you as I write this from prison. Here, I find myself surrounded by an assortment of guys who all of a sudden NOW know how to commit the perfect crime (eye roll).

At first glance, it seems like “The Perfect Crime” would present a special kind of mystery for anyone who dared to solve it.

Or would it?

The perfect crime is an illusive concept.

Believe me.

I’ve tried to get away with a whole bunch of shenanigans over the years, but it never worked out quite right. In seventh grade I devised a plan to cheat on an English test by meticulously placing crib notes inside of a clear pen. It was a perfect scheme until I took the wrong pen to class.

I once got my hands on a crate of illegal fireworks. I figured it would be a good idea to spend an hour and a half lighting them off from my favorite spot in the woods. It turns out that an hour and a half is enough time to annoy the bird-watchers, have them hike out of the woods, have them call the cops, have the cops arrive at the park, have the cops hike to my spot in the woods and then have the cops confiscate the remainder of my arsenal.

Evidently, the “perfect” amount of time needed for that particular crime was an hour and twenty-nine minutes.

I forged my report card for my entire freshman year of high school. It was the “perfect crime”…until I failed lab science, which caused the teacher to call my mom and dad, which, in turn, exposed the report card fraud, which got me in serious trouble. The natural culmination of those events was summer school.

Oh well, I tried…sort of.

Beyond that, you have a more unfortunate batch of “dumb criminals” who try to commit “the perfect crime,” but instead end up as a punch line in a “lighter-side-of-the-news” segment. You’ll hear stories of criminal “masterminds” who turn themselves over to police in an effort to collect the reward money for their capture. You’ll hear about guys who try to rob convenience stores with homemade face masks, out of which they have forgotten to cut eyeholes. You might hear a story about a guy who has made a career of robbing vending machines, only to get caught and then post bail with $500 worth of quarters. I once heard about a guy who tried to rob a local bank, but was thwarted by a witty teller. The would-be thief was told his hold-up note could not be accepted because it was not written on bank stationary.

I may have been able to get away with the “report-card-scam” AND avoid summer school if I had been able to put in just enough effort to pass lab science…but no. That puts me in the same league as your average “dumb criminal”…(sigh).

Obviously, some criminals will put more thought than others into their “enterprise.” Organized crime syndicates can thrive for decades, crime families will endow future generations with guarded company secrets, multi-level financial ponzi schemes will flourish for years…until they don’t.

These operations are a more organized, longer lasting effort but ultimately fall short of being “The Perfect Crime.”

In any discussion anyone is ever going to have about “mysteries” and “the perfect crime,” it would be “criminal” not to mention D.B. Cooper, arguably one of the greatest unsolved crime mysteries of our time.

If you aren’t up to speed on the story, allow me to give you the CliffsNotes version.

On Thanksgiving Eve of 1971, D.B. Cooper hijacked a plane enroute to Seattle, Washington. While in the air he demanded $200,000 and four parachutes. The plane landed, his demands are met, Cooper released all of the passengers while retaining four crew members and with that, the plane headed back into the air, ostensibly bound for Reno, Nevada. Once airborne, Cooper locked all of the crew in the cockpit, carefully selected a parachute, grabbed the ransom money and quietly jumped from the back of the plane…and into obscurity.

Cooper left behind an astonishingly scarce amount of clues. Nine years after the hijacking occurred, several thousand dollars of the ransom money surfaced on a bank (no pun intended) of the Columbia River in Washington State. This only served to deepen the mystery and perhaps help elevate this caper to the status of: “Perfect Crime.”

The problem with this scenario was that most of the nation knew about the hijacking. Cooper ended up with a legion of people in pursuit of him, local police, state police, the FBI, the Army, Air Force personnel, the National Guard, a mob of civilian volunteers, not to mention the pack of angry chihuahuas! Okay, there were no Chihuahuas.

It’s worth noting that efforts to locate Cooper turned up next to nothing. The FBI officially suspended the search in 2016 after maintaining an active investigation for forty-five years. D.B. Cooper had seemingly committed the perfect crime.

Still, a grand jury indictment handed down “In Absentia” awaits Mr. Cooper if he should ever surface in the future. I don’t know, that doesn’t really sound like the perfect crime to me.

I would like to submit that “The Perfect Crime” is the offense that only one person ever knows about. The cops don’t know about it, the news doesn’t know about it, even the would-be victims wouldn’t know anything had happened to them.

This supposition poses a small quandary to anyone involved in a quest to lay eyes on “The Perfect Crime:” The only person with any knowledge of the perfect crime would be the person who committed it.

However, “The Perfect Crime” still has one fatal flaw…or perhaps, more precisely, an “eternal flaw.”

Romans 14:12 tells us that, “Each of us will give an account of ourself to God.” Have you ever stopped to think about what that might look like?

*** **** ***

John Doe: “Woah…where am I?”

Heaven: “At the pearly gates.”

JD: “You mean, I’m dead?”

H: “Well, let me put it to you this way…it’s just a tad too late to adjust your will.”

JD: “Wow, this isn’t quite what I expected.”

H: “Yeah…we get that a lot. A while back we sent a guy down there to tell you about this place, but sadly, quite a few people never paid any attention to him.”

JD: “Paid any attention to who?”

H: (Sigh) “Indeed. I see your name is “John Doe.”

JD: “That’s correct, Sir.”

H: “It says here in your file that you “tried to commit the perfect crime.”

JD: “That’s right. I did. I mean…I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

H: “No, of course you don’t. Nobody knows about that “little thing” you did.”

JD: “Little thing I did? I have no idea what you’re referring to. Besides, nobody got hurt! You know…if that’s the little thing you’re talking of…which I don’t know anything about.”

H: “Just how long did you expect to get away with that little stunt you pulled?”

JD: “What are you talking about?!? I DID get away with it! I took this secret with me, quite literally, to the grave! I got away scot-free!”

H: “Almost.”

JD: “Almost? What do you mean “almost”? My “stunt” had class and sophistication, I was suave and dignified. I even wore a boutonniere (that was my own personal touch)! It was the perfect crime! Nobody knew about it!”

H: “Well, we knew about it up here. Heck, we even knew about it before you thought about doing it.”

JD: “What?”

H: “Oh, we know all about you “Mr. Doe,” if that is indeed your real name.”

JD: “It wasn’t my real name! I mean….it wasn’t my real name?”

H: “Of course it wasn’t. We know that. We also know what you did in Edna Filbert’s backyard after she dumped you on prom night.”

JD: “No you don’t! Nobody knew abut that! Hell, I barely knew about that myself considering how wasted I was that evening. You wouldn’t, by chance, have any idea what she’s been up to lately, would you?”

H: “Well, she’s not here yet, if that’s what you’re asking.”

JD: “Blast it! By the way….who are you?”

***** *** **** ***

Sooner or later, here or there, one way or another, our secrets will be revealed.¹ We will have gotten away with the perfect crime…until we don’t.

You may be afforded one last chance to “look up at the clock” so that you can be made aware that your “story” only has five minutes left…or, you may not, as “Mr. Doe” has illustrated. We might make it all the way through life only to have our secrets revealed at the judgment throne.²

Fortunately, if you are indeed alive, there’s still hope. If we confess our “crimes” before the “final credits” roll, Christ is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us of our guilt.³ With that, the “worst-possible-announcement” will become the “best-message-ever” when it has been declared that your story is: “To be continued.”

That’s NO mystery.

¹ Luke 8:17

²Heb 9:28/MT 16:27

³ 1 John 1:9

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