"Detective Unit": a Study in Red Tape
This is the offices of "Detective Unit"
Lee Marvin and some good friends
Do you remember the late, great film and television star, Lee Marvin? What a fantastic actor. He performed in countless films ranging from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," to "Paint Your Wagon," and his best-remembered, "The Dirty Dozen," with co-star Ernest Borgnine, Telly Savalas and Charles Bronson among others. Marvin was a perfectionist when it came to his craft. And it showed.
When I was at the tender age of six, my dad, mom, and I went one evening to visit a neighbor on her invitation to come and watch (the latest fad) her television, a black and white "monster," with a small screen and the picture sometimes would have this "wave" run up from the bottom making us squint. That was in the infancy of the needed-appliance, television as we know it in 2012.
My dad loved "Gillette's Friday Night Fights," for when he was in the Army, he did a little sparring with some of his buddies and he enjoyed watching Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, and others do battle in the ring as he moved his hands as to "help" his favorite fighter, Marciano.
My favorite television show was not boxing, but an early police detective show, "M Squad," that starred a young Lee Marvin, the typical hard-living, drinking, cigarette-smoking, undercover detective who solved the tough cases every week. I was amazed at Marvin's voice at how deep and rich he sounded when he would say, "let's get 'im, guys," and another thug would soon be seeing bars for a long time.
Since "M Squad," there has been "Dragnet," with Jack Webb and Harry Morgan, Charlie Chan, and skipping way ahead, "Miami Vice," with Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas. How I loved those detectives and their unorthodox lifestyles.
Now, in 2012, we have "CSI: New York," with Gary Sinise, "NCIS," with Mark Harmon, "Blue Bloods," with Tom Selleck and a sad departure, with no thanks to CBS, "CSI: Miami" (that starred) David Caruso, which, if anyone at CBS can read, was my "favorite" of all the detective shows.
When watching these latest detective offerings, one thing stood out: The criminals couldn't be arrested unless there was a good DNA or blood sample at the crime scene. Wow. What progress. In Lee Marvin's "M Squad," a thug was arrested purely on suspicion, questioned in a dark room with one hot light over his head and when he "broke," he went to jail. Then to court. And finally convicted to serve a lot of time in prison. With no "spineless" plea bargains or pleading-down to a lesser charge involved.
What I want to do now for your reading and imaginary entertainment, is present my own version of a modern-day, sensitive, careful, and sometimes effective detective show entitled, "Detective Unit" with tonight's episode, "Is It Murder or Just Catsup?"
I think you will love it. A sure-sign of you really getting into my show is if you start to feel stings of frustration at just how overboard my detectives go at being a bit too careful when investigating a crime scene.
The scene: a parking lot in front of a neighborhood grocery store, on the "bad" side of town.
Set-up: a body has been found and the highly-thorough detectives of "Detective Unit" have been summoned to investigate. Onlookers are gathering around the crime scene, but being "tenderly-managed," by area police officers who give them cold soda pop's to keep them calm. A new way of police interaction with average citizens.
FRANKY (head detective): Say, Jimmy boy, looks like a bad one.
JIMMY: (assistant squad leader): Yes, sir, it does and on a beautiful day like today.
FRANKY: Son, you sound sad. Did you have plans for today?
JIMMY: (laughs) a few, sir. My girl, "Millie," and I had plans on having a romantic picnic in the park over past Brooklyn, but sir, my pleasure can wait. Finding out who did this terrible act comes first.
FRANKY: Son, you have a future in police work. It's like my mentor, "Bulldog," the seasoned vet who trained me once said, "you can count on two things: crime and women."
JIMMY: (laughs) Yeah, he was right, sir.
FRANKY: Hello, Peter. You look kinda pale. Long night at your anniversary party last night?
PETER: (looks stunned) Sir? I am not married. I just had a touch of the flu, but what have we got?
FRANKY: (points at body on ground) Ehhh, seems to me it might be a murder, but we won't know until the results of our DNA samples come back from the lab.
PETER: Say, Franky, the knife is still in the dead man's back--wouldn't you call this murder?
JIMMY: Sir, Mr. Franky always told me 'every shiny knife blade in the back doesn't always mean murder,' sir.
FRANKY: Thanks, son. Glad you remembered that.
JIMMY: You told me that yesterday, sir.
PETER: Well snap it up, Franky. Mayor Denson's really riding my back about the cases piling up and not being solved.
JIMMY: (to Peter) Are you a horse, sir?
FRANKY: Gotcha, Pete. We'll have the results of this crime by noon Thursday at the latest.
PETER: Franky, today's Monday! Why so long?
JIMMY: Sir, please don't yell at Mr. Franky, his wife is about to leave him.
FRANKY: Jimmy, you shouldn't spill news like that to Mr. Peter. He's not only my boss, but supervisor of Internal Affairs.
JIMMY: Oh, I see. Your wife had an 'internal affair'?
PETER: Just--get--this--cleaned--up! (walks away shaking his head)
FRANKY: (using bullhorn) "Billy, 'Hot Head,' Max, Sally G., come here and help me turn this body so we can find out his name.
JIMMY: Sir, we don't need those guys. I think I know this guy.
FRANKY: Jimmy, that's great, but we need to take our time and get every intimate detail so this case won't be thrown out of court like the previous 50 cases we have handled going back three weeks.
(Billy, 'Hot Head,' Max, and Sally G., trot over to where Franky is standing).
BILLY: Now what, Franky?
FRANKY: If you don't mind, turn this guy over so Jimmy can perform some DNA tests on his lips.
BILLY: But sir, he has a butcher's knife in his back. He was murdered.
FRANKY: Billy! I know you used to be a 'hot shot' detective once upon a time, but that checker-playing got to be an addiction for you, so they busted you down to a crime scene tech, so that means YOU are wrong, my friend. It's not like it was in 'your' day. We have to really do a good job at finding out why people are killed and not just guess at it? Now, you and the rest, put ya' back into it.
(Groans and moans come from Billy, Max, 'Hot Head," and Sally G. as they turn the corpse on his back.)
BILLY: Franky, we need to take our morning break--union rules.
FRANKY (laughs) go on, Bill, you big lug. Jimmy, where are you on the clues around the body?
JIMMY: Oh, sir, I'm right here and sir, I did find a most unusual clue, this piece of white paper with writing on it.
FRANKY: Good work, son. Read it to me.
JIMMY: Yes, sir. It reads . . ."My name is Johnny Breck. I am a powerful mobster. I live at 319 Foster Road, Brooklyn, New York. I took this man's life by sticking him in the back with my grandma "Sonnie's" favorite butcher's knife. I killed him this morning because he looked at me the wrong way." "If any police officers come to arrest me, I will go quietly. I am now sorry for my sin." Signed, Johnny Breck."///well, sir, looks like we know how this man died.
FRANKY: (laughs) Oh, Jimmy, my son, you cannot put much stock in that written confession. It might have been written by an "ex" girlfriend and this Breck fella may not even exist. Nahhh, we'd better be cool and stay here and carefully investigate this crime.
JIMMY: Wow, what a great officer you are.
(Scene fades out as Franky removes his $5.87 sunglasses he bought at Walgreen's and stares at the letter Jimmy just read).
NETWORK GOES TO 5 MINUTES OF COMMERCIALS
Ford Motor Co., KIA Motors, Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee, Breck Shampoo, Coke, Budweiser and T-Mobile.
(Scene opens up still at the crime scene. Franky is standing over the dead body. The knife is still in the man's back. Jimmy is now dusting the pavement for shoe prints or any clue that will help the "Detective Unit" find out how this man died.)
FRANKY: Hey, Jimmy, why don't you duck outta here and bring us a cup of black coffee?
JIMMY: Thank you, sir, but I don't touch the stuff. I will run across the street and get you one though.
FRANKY: Wow, thanks, son. Yes, do that. And would you cover me on the cost? My wife slammed me this morning for all of my cash.
(Jimmy scampers off to get Franky some coffee. Billy, Max, "Hot Head," and Sally G. return from their one-hour break.)
BILLY: Frank, yuh still puzzled 'bout this stiff?
FRANKY: Bill, you sure got a way with words. And no, but I have a theory of how this man died.
SALLY G.: Frank, think for once. He died of murder. See the knife in his back? Sheesh.
"HOT HEAD": Yeah, the girl's right. Murder, Franky. Let's call it for lunch.
FRANKY: Yeah, guys. That makes sense. Take your lunch break and hey, Sally, would you float me a hero sandwich? My wife threatened to take our house in the divorce if I didn't give her my last hundred dollars.
SALLY G.: Yeah, but ya' owe me one (giggles, primps hair and walks away with Billy, Max and "Hot Head.).
PETER RE-ENTERS SCENE
PETER: Sayyy, Frank. What did I tell you 45 minutes ago?
FRANKY: Well, you kinda talked harshly and wanted this crime scene wrapped up, Peter.
PETER: Yep, Frank. I do. Why are you still looking for clues and holding up the coroner, medical examiner and even Louigi and Toni, the ambulance drivers? Frank, these people have jobs to do. Now get it done. Chop! Chop!
FRANKY LOOKS AT THE GROUND SHAKING HIS HEAD.
(Scene fades for Network Commercials)
Ford Motor Co.; Lifetime Movie Network; Pepsi; Publix Grocers;
Disney Movie promotion: Mysterious Island.
PSA from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson about talking to your kids about not smoking
SCENE OPENS WITH FRANKY AND JIMMY BOTH STANDING OVER THE DEAD BODY, WITH KNIFE STILL IN THE BACK.
FRANKY: Hey, I got an idea. Let's you and I take a ride over to that Breck fella's house and talk to him. I will show you some "real" police work.
JIMMY: Wow, what a great day!
(at the lavish home of mobster, Johnny Breck somewhere on the outskirts of Brooklyn)
(Franky and Jimmy roll up into the drive way and see Breck running toward their car holding his hands up).
FRANKY: Hey, Johnny Breck! Stop right there. Put your hands up!
JIMMY: Uhh, Frank, his hands are up.
FRANKY: I know. It's department policy for me to say that. Johnny Breck, we need to ask you some questions.
BRECK: Not necessary. I killed the guy in the parking lot. I left a written confession and everything. See the blood on my hands? This is that poor slob's blood. Now arrest me.
FRANKY: What do you take me for, an idiot? You can't pull the reverse confession on this veteran detective.
JIMMY: Uhh, Frank, sir, we could just take him downtown for questioning.
BRECK: Yeah. You could take me downtown for questioning.
FRANKY: Well, you'd like that wouldn't you, Breck? Not happening. No one is as foolish as to kill a man in cold blood, leave a signed confession and then beg to be arrested--nope, something's not right here.
JIMMY: Sir! I mean, sir, we just can't leave Mr. Breck standing here with blood on his hands . . .
FRANK: You think I don't know that? Breck, go wash your hands. I don't want blood on my police car seats. Jimmy, you go with him.
JIMMY: Sir, really! If Breck washes his hands, there goes our evidence.
FRANKY: Evidence? If we arrest Breck now, without any DNA testing, he could sue the department for harassment.
BRECK: Please listen to me. I killed that guy. I want to go to prison and serve my time.
FRANKY: Jimmy, I've heard enough. Let's get back to the crime scene. This guy probably cut his hands on his riding mower.
(Jimmy is dazed at Franky's lack of police intelligence as they both get back into their car and drive away leaving Johnny Breck, the confessed killer, standing in his driveway screaming to be taken in for murder).
BACK AT THE CRIME SCENE
PETER: Well, well, well. Franky and Jimmy back from arresting that Breck guy. Nice work, fellas. Nice work.
FRANKY: Hold the applause, Peter. That Breck guy was yanking our chain. He wanted us to believe that he did this crime only to set us up for a big lawsuit and you know as well as I do, our department cannot take anymore lawsuits.
PETER: So YOU--JUST--LET--HIM--GO????
JIMMY: Yes, sir. Just like that. Sir.
FRANKY: Yeah, Peter, that little voice in my head kept telling me that this was a sour deal and I listen to that voice too, Peter. I've listened t that little voice for over 15 years.
PETER: (stunned, angry) Hey, Tom King, coroner, Mike Longley, medical examiner, Toni and Louigi, ambulance drivers, get up here and take control of this crime scene.
FRANKY: Pete, that isn't your call!
JIMMY: Sir, I believe it is. Mr. Dancer "is" our commander. Sir.
FRANKY: (angry) Okay, okay! Play your "red tape games," but I say this body is to stay here until "I" make the call as to what this was, a suicide or murder?
PETER: Yeah, Frank. I can really see how a man as large as this guy could reach behind his back and stab himself over ten times to take his life. Why didn't you send the knife to the lab to test for prints???
FRANKY: And tamper with the crime scene? You know that's how cases get thrown out, Pete!
JIMMY: May I take a break, sirs?
FRANK: Hold it right there, "Mr. Medical Examiner; Coroner, and ambulance drivers . . .hey, Jimmy, stop. We need to run a background check on these people before they can move the body.
PETER: (pitifully) Men, do your job. My responsibility. Frank, why don't you and I just take you home to see your wife whom I hear is leaving you for a higher-up in our own department. Tough break, Frank.
FRANKY: Been hurt before, Pete. Won't kill me. I give you my word.
(Frank gets into Peter's lavish personal automobile and waits for Peter to make a phone call).
PETER: Yeah, baby, it's me. Peter. Yeah. He's coming home. What? Naaah, are you kidding me, baby? Frank doesn't know about "us," and he can barely think straight long enough to see that this crime that he had investigated for almost an entire day was purely a case of a teenage prank. A plastic knife placed in a men's clothing store mannequin. Okay. Don't worry. Yeah, I will "act" like I've not seen you in years. Bye, sweetie.
(Scene fades.) End of This Episode: "Is This Murder or Just Catsup?"
Tune in sometime in the future for another exciting episode of:
"DETECTIVE UNIT: Solving Crime and Getting it Right. Sometimes.
"Detective Unit" at work searching lakes and ponds
More by this Author
I love lists. Long lists. Short lists. Here is "my" List of 20 Things That Never Need Improving"
Not many fans of early television ever admit to not liking the "Andy Griffith Show." But me? I have endured a few casting miscues for as long as I can.
I am NOT a Scrooge. Just upfront.