I should be working on getting Jim back in his kilt and Blair in his tights and tunic, but I really liked those 'Top Ten Stories of 1999' that I sent out as a challenge to Cascade Times, yesterday. Sooooo. I just thought I might try one of them, just for fun, myself. Hmmmmm. OK, so I'm using several of them. Most of the 'stories' told in this are based on real occurrences, with details changed to make them fit. Yes, there really are some dumb crooks out there...

I'm still using the standard disclaimer that I know that the characters from The Sentinel are owned and copyrighted by others and that as I make no money from this, I hope they don't sue me over their use.

For those who care, this has an OFC alert. Mable, Ronnie, and Cecilia are back, as is Mable's sister, Esther and her son, Tyrell.

How Dumb Can You Get?


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It was poker night and the group from Major Crime had gathered, yet again, at the home of Joel Taggart. And why not? He had the largest home of any of them, with a large dining room and a table big enough to accommodate them all, not to mention a wife who loved to cook and feed company. Of course, the fact that the youngest detective was dating Joel's daughter had nothing to do with how much they all preferred to hold their gatherings in the lovely old house. It was just a little perk that made the others happy, when Blair was distracted enough by his lady to not wipe everyone else out in the game, which he definitely tended to do, and on a fairly regular basis. Of course, since Mable's sister, Esther, was also visiting that evening, Simon's game was just a little off, as well.

Dinner had been, as usual, wonderful. The weather had finally become winter-like, with a major storm front settled above the state and the Pineapple Express had brought copious quantities of moisture in the form of rain and sleet and even some hail, although no snow. Which wasn't all that unusual, although, further east in the mountains, it wasn't snowing, either. With the wind howling outside, it was very nice to be indoors, listening to the storm, instead of being out somewhere in it.

Mable had invited Ronnie Wells to join them, and suggested that Brown bring his wife and Rafe his current girlfriend, but they had both declined to drag their ladies out into the storm. Ronnie, however, had not. She was sitting next to Jim, practically in his lap, kibitzing his decisions and teasing him over practically every play.

"Why don't you join us, Ronnie?" Rafe suggested as, once again, Jim managed to flirt with his kibitzing lady, while at the same time, bluff everyone into betting high and losing.

"Oh, no. I'm not a cop, and this is your game." She was smirking as she spoke, however.

"Oh, come on, Ronnie. I don't mind taking your money," Jim teased.

"Oh, I'm sure. However, how well do you lose?" Her expression was calculating.

"He loses very well, to a better player," Blair piped up, and had to quickly duck as everyone started throwing snacks at him. "Hey! Knock it off, you guys. I am not going to clean up any messes you make, understand?"

The answer was more pretzels and popcorn being flung at him.

"I think I'll leave you to your game, detectives," Ronnie said, rising. Jim looked up, a question in his eyes. Her smile reassured him and he turned back to his cards.

"OK, straight seven card stud, only the jokers are wild, folks." He was met with groans at his staid, old-fashioned calling of the game and the simplicity that limited their ability to bluff.

Ronnie headed for the kitchen, where she found Mable and Cecilia baking cookies and Mable's sister, Esther, at the table with her teen-aged son, Tyrell, working on his homework.

"Smells good. What kind of cookies are you making?" Ronnie asked.

"Well, there's pecan-chocolate-chip, and peanut-butter-chocolate-chip. We thought to keep it simple," Mable replied, with a smile.

"Smells wonderful. I'm surprised that Jim hasn't come begging, already."

"Oh, no. He's really good about it. Now Simon..." Cecilia said. "Or Blair, come to think of it. They've gotten used to having to wait until later for the sweet stuff."

"Oh, so this is a regular thing?"

"Oh, yes. Having everyone over gives me an excuse to make a lot of things that I don't usually. At least, not since Joel lost all that weight. It's not fair to tempt him."

"How much did he lose?" Ronnie asked, not having known him before he'd lost weight.

"Just over one hundred pounds; one hundred and eighteen, I think."

"Wow. How'd he do it? I've been trying to lose thirty pounds for years and haven't been able to."

"With God's help, is all I can say. Plus, once the weight started coming off, he started running. Jim worked with him on a simple exercise routine that wouldn't overstress him, but helped build muscle and strength. He works out three or four times a week, now and jogs with me on the weekends." There was no hiding the pride she felt at her husband's accomplishment. He was not only managing to maintain his new weight, but was easily as strong as he'd been back when he'd been in the Army.

"That's great." Turning to Esther and Tyrell, who were really studying the textbook on the table, Ronnie tilted her head to see what they were reading. "Algebra?"

"Yes," Esther said. "I'm afraid that math was never my best subject and I'm totally lost, here."

"I just don't get it," Tyrell added. "This problem reads more like a physics problem than an algebra problem."

"May I?" Ronnie asked.

Tyrell looked up, glanced at his mother for a moment and then nodded, his expression hopeful as he turned the book so that Ronnie could see it.

"Oh, good grief. This isn't algebra! This is calculus! Let me see this..." She read through the problem and then reached for his pencil. Turning the piece of paper he'd been scribbling on, she first read through the problem, then wrote the formula down on the paper.

"Now try it," she said.

Tyrell read the problem from the book, then looked at the formula she had written on the piece of paper, his furrowed brow drew down further as he chewed on his lower lip; then, abruptly, his face cleared and he smiled. "Oh, I get it!" He reread the problem again, wrote down the numbers and used the formula that Ronnie had given him and worked it out. When he was through, he looked up at her, his expression asking the question.

"Yep. Looks good to me, Tyrell. Need any more help?"

"Thanks, but that's the only one I was having trouble with, Ms Wells."

"OK, but if you need help again, just ask."

"Yes, ma'am." Tyrell beamed at her, then turned back to his homework, copying the problem from the scratch sheet to the page he was going to turn in.

As Ronnie started to turn away, Esther reached out and touched her arm. "Thank you," she said, and was gifted by one of Ronnie's broad smiles.

"Hey, any time." She replied. She started to again turn back toward the dining room and the game, when Cecilia handed her a fresh, warm cookie. Taking a bite, she groaned. "Oh, there goes another five pounds I'm going to have to try and lose. This is positively decadent, ladies."

"My mom makes the best cookies in town. I keep trying to get her to enter them in the county fair, but she never does." Cecilia's pride shown from her eyes as she bent down to give her mother a hug.

"Go on, girl," Mable teased, returning the hug. "Why don't you and Ronnie take these out to the boys, well, the boys and Megan. I'm sure they're in need of sustenance by now."

"You mean they need some sugar to sweeten the dispositions of the losers?" Cecilia replied, cheekily.

"And to soften the gloating of the winners," Mable agreed.

"Not to mention, distracting the two aforementioned winners?" Ronnie added with another grin.

"Well, it's always nice when they more or less break even," Mable said.

Carrying the platters of cookies out to the ravenous (even though they'd eaten a most satisfying meal just a couple of hours earlier) card players, Cecilia and Ronnie then sat beside their beaus and kept them distracted while feeding them cookies. They were soon joined by Mable, Esther, and Tyrell, who settled around them.

Tyrell, feeling somewhat lost and out of place amongst the adults, tried to come up with a topic of conversation that he would find interesting and at the same time wouldn't annoy the adults. Wracking his brain for several minutes, he finally came up with one.

"Uh, do any of you watch America's Dumbest Criminals?" He was met with a chorus of yes's and continued, "So, have any of you ever caught somebody that dumb?"

Everyone chuckled and Joel was the first one to reply. "Oh, yeah. I had a guy threaten to blow up a bank, only the teller noticed that his 'bomb' was made up of toilet roll tubes and duct tape. Turns out that he'd stuffed the cardboard tubes with gunpowder and wrapped them with duct tape, thinking it would be the same as dynamite. He strolled into the bank and threatened to light the fuse if they didn't give him all the money. Well, the teller simply hit the silent alarm, the guard, seeing what was happening and that the 'bomb' didn't look all that dangerous, tackled the guy and had him in custody. The patrol that was the first on the scene called me to take care of the 'bomb'. You should have seen everyone's faces when I got that sucker into the blast bin and it blew up."

"Wait a minute," Blair interrupted, "I thought it was just cardboard tubes stuffed with gunpowder?"

"Yes, it was. Not black powder, the new smokeless kind. Even though the tubes were made of cardboard, they were stuffed with the powder and wrapped with duct tape," Joel explained. "Try and imagine a two-inch wide, six-inch long firecracker..."

"Oh, man," Tyrell whispered, his eyes round and wide as he pictured the possibilities. "He coulda killed somebody."

"Most likely, himself. The scary part was that he didn't think it was dangerous. He had blasting caps and fuses... Blasting caps work from a spark, which means that the caps would have gone off after the powder ignited. And with the caps, if he'd dropped one of the tubes, it could easily have gone off."

"What happened to the perp?" Simon asked.

"Oh, he went to jail. Still there, as far as I know. Of course, that's mostly because when he was out on bail, he tried to rob another bank."

"Did he use another bomb?" Blair asked.

"No. He tried to hold them up with his finger." There was choked laughter from Jim, Simon, and Brown.

"His finger?" Rafe asked, confused.

"Yeah," Joel stuck his hand in his pants pocket, making a 'gun' shape with his extended index finger. "Only problem was, he took his hand out of his pocket and waved it around, trying to threaten the tellers." The group erupted in laughter at the idea.

"Oh, dear," Mable chortled. "I remember when that happened, it was what, seven, eight years ago?"

"Something like that," Joel replied.

"Remember when the SWAT team had that suspected terrorist pinned down in his parent's house?" Jim asked, once the laughter had died down a bit.

"Oh, yeah," Joel chuckled, "That was a good one. Were you there?"

"Yeah. Thankfully, I wasn't involved, just there as one of the perimeter guys." Seeing the questions in the other's eyes, "It was just after I started here, I was in patrol. The call came in and we surrounded the house, the SWAT guys were in position, they called him on the phone, they tried to talk him into giving himself up and coming out. Finally, after a couple of hours, they fired probably a case of teargas into the house, started a fire and everything. Just as they were about to charge in, the suspect started yelling at them that he was giving himself up, why did they start his parent's house on fire? He was standing right there, next to the SWAT Captain, trying to give himself up when the order was given."

There was a moment of silence before the group erupted in laughter.

"Who did that?" Simon gasped, wiping tears of laughter from his cheeks.

"That was Captain Burke, I think he retired right after that, if I'm not mistaken," Joel explained. Oh, I remember that. Talk about embarrassing..."

"There was one when I was still in patrol," Rafe began only to be interrupted by his partner.

"What, last month?" Henry laughed, teasing.

"No, idiot. Couple of years ago. Got a call from a concerned citizen who stopped into one of those mini-markets places. She didn't know the clerk and called it in because she knew the regular guy and there was just something funny about the guy."

"So, what was it?" Ronnie asked, finding the stories to be entertaining, and a nice addition to what was normally just a 'cops night out' playing cards.

"Seems the guy came in to rob the place, didn't like how little money there was and tied the clerk up in a back room, then took over running the place for several hours, until the regular customer came in. Well, she called the police, I was sent to investigate and while my partner was interviewing the phony clerk, I walked around and saw the real clerk through the refrigerator doors. He'd tied him and put him in the cooler, not realizing the man was visible through the glass doors, if anyone bothered to look."

"What'd he say when you busted him?" Brown asked.

"He wondered how we knew." His innocent expression caused the rest to burst out laughing again.

"Oh, that's great. We had one once that I only got the aftermath of. Seems this bunch of men robbed a bank and as they ran, one of them stuffed some of the loot into his pants. What they didn't realize was that the money was planted with dye packs..." Ronnie began.

"So, he ended up with stains on his pants?" Tyrell asked, not understanding why the cops were all laughing, rather hysterically.

Ronnie smiled at him, "Not exactly. You see, the dye packs work with an explosive timer. When it went off, the tiny explosive charge set his pants and underwear on fire..."

Tyrell's eyes grew wide as he pictured the probable damage to the robber's anatomy. "What happened?"

"Well, he managed to get his pants off, but he was in too much pain to keep running, so not only was he arrested for Robbery and Grand Theft, but also for indecent exposure." Her quiet, deadpan delivery of the punch line only caused the cops to howl even more loudly.

"How about you, Megan?" Jim asked, "Surely you have a few stories about dumb crooks?"

"Oh, maybe a few," she smiled. "There was one fellow who thought he'd sneak into the local pub and steal all the money after a Saturday night party. Well, he managed to break in, but before he emptied the till, he decided to have himself a drink. He looked through the bar and found the most expensive whisky he could and poured himself a tumbler full."

"Tumbler? You mean, like eight or ten ounces?" Blair asked, for clarification.

"I mean tumbler, as in a pint, about a half-liter, the same kind of glass you serve beer in."

"He just drank it down?" Joel asked, shocked.

"Poor bugger didn't know any better. He'd never had anything but beer before. So, he tossed back the whisky, drank it down, then tottered over to the till. He couldn't get it open, so he went back and had himself another glass of whisky."

"A quart of whisky? And he was still conscious?" Brown asked, starting to giggle.

"Yeah. Then he went back and tried to open the till again. Unfortunately, he still couldn't get it open, so he decided to just take the entire till off with him. Too bad for him, the thing was bolted to the bar and he couldn't get it loose."

"So, what'd he do, have another drink?" Jim asked jokingly.

"As a matter of fact. Of course, by this time, he'd sort of forgotten what he was there for, so he decided to have himself a little party. He found the phone and managed to call a few of his mates to come join him, which they did. Pretty soon, the bar was hopping, they were playing the juke box and just having a great time. The bar was in a kind of back of beyond sort of area, nothing but warehouses around, no houses, and the warehouses were all closed, so no one was around to notice anything."

"So, what happened?"

"Well, when the barman came in the next morning, she found the lot of them sprawled on the floor, dead drunk. Not a one of them had ever drunk whisky before, she called us and I was unlucky enough to get the call. My partner and I got there, realized that the drunks were in trouble and needed medical attention. While Keogh called for an ambulance and the medics, I started trying first aid, only to get puked on for my trouble."

She grinned as they laughed. At the time, she had been disgusted, but with distance and hindsight, even she could find the humor in the telling of the story. "Anyway, they all ended up in hospital and had to have their stomachs pumped. So, not only did they get arrested for what you would call breaking and entering, and grand theft, they also had huge doctor's bills from saving their lives from the alcohol poisoning and the bill from the bar for all the booze they drank."

Eventually, the laughter died down. Finally, Mable asked, "What about you, Henry? And you, Simon? We've heard from everyone else. Surely you've got some funny stories to tell?"

While the storytelling had gone on, they had cleaned up the table, putting the cards and chips away and cleared the leftover snacks. They had eventually made their way to the living room with the rest of the cookies and coffee, and settled down in the spacious area. Jim and Ronnie were sharing a love seat, and Blair and Cecilia were sharing a chair, Cecilia sitting in the chair, with Blair sitting on the arm of the chair, holding her hand. Brown and Rafe were on one couch, while Simon, Esther and Tyrell sat on another. Joel was ensconced in his recliner, with Mable at his side.

"Well, there was one time..." Brown began, "We got a call to a jewelry store's silent alarm, it was about four in the morning. I was in a single unit at the time. I met the storeowner there, who let me in. We got the lights on and looked around. It looked all right, at first, no signs of forced entry, all the windows and doors were secure. But I heard a noise in the back room. I went to investigate, and found the would-be burglar. He'd tried to come in through the heat duct. He'd gotten stuck, and in his struggles, he'd broken the duct loose from the system and fallen, well, when he broke through the ceiling, he'd managed to straddle one of the ceiling joists. So there he was, stuck in the broken duct, astride the beam, halfway through the ceiling. That man was in a world of hurt, he'd managed to rupture one of his... uh," Brown blushed a bit and looked embarrassed, realizing that the man's injuries weren't exactly suitable for polite company.

"That's all right, dear, go on," Mable chided, smiling. Every man there was laughing and wincing at the same time, it was funny, thinking of the perp, but painful to consider the injury for themselves. Even Tyrell was grinning, surprised to have been allowed to stay with the adults, thinking that being not quite seventeen would have made them send him to his room, but they hadn't. In fact, Simon had been the one to whisper to his mom to let him stay when she'd started to look concerned with his presence during the adult conversation. He'd even managed to overhear what he said, that 'he's no doubt heard far worse at school'. Which was true. He and Daryl had spoken several times about their respective parent dating one another, at first, Tyrell had been adamantly opposed, but he'd pretty much gotten over it, once he found out that Simon Banks didn't beat his son. That had been his one, big fear. Simon reached over and ruffled his hair, grinning at him when he looked up. Tyrell smiled at him, finding that he didn't really mind him seeing his mom... especially since they both were willing to include him, not to mention Daryl...

Turning back to Brown, Tyrell asked, "So, what happened?"

"Well, we had to call for some help to get him out without tearing the building down, then he was taken to the hospital. After that, the poor idiot went to jail. The poor guy never stood a chance. The storeowner kept a camera in his office, and he took a couple of rolls of film of the guy and us getting him loose. He was at least smart enough to plead guilty. Since it was his first offense, he only got one to five."

"What about you, Captain Banks?" Tyrell asked, once the laughter had finally died down from the other's comments on Brown's story.

"Well, let's see..." Simon took a sip of his coffee. "Well, there was one time shortly after I made Captain and transferred to Major Crime. I had this smart-ass detective working for me. Had a serious attitude problem. Didn't want to work with anybody. Wore an earring and a mustache."

Joel cast a quick glance at Jim, knowing who Simon was talking about. Jim was blushing slightly, suspecting what was coming and steeling himself for the embarrassment. He caught Joel's eye and grimaced, seeing the recognition in the older man's eyes.

"Well, this smartass needed some taming down, so I partnered him with one of the old-timers. Tough old bird, good at his job. Jack got his partner to straighten up his act, lose the mustache and earring, but he couldn't do anything about his surly personality." Simon paused to take a sip of his coffee and glanced around at his audience. The detectives were, with one notable exception, grinning, thinking that they knew where this story was leading. The notable exception was blushing, slightly, and his jaw was torquing, just a bit.

"Well, one day, this particular detective was working a stakeout. He was sitting in an alley, dressed as a bum, waiting for a drug deal to go down. He'd gotten a tip that there was going to be a big deal, and he'd called in for backup, but his snitch was discounted as a loser who simply tried to give what he thought was wanted, in exchange for being let go for his own misdemeanors. The other cops just figured that the snitch had taken the detective. Well, the detective insisted that his snitch wouldn't lie to him, so he was staking out the alley next to the warehouse by himself."

Jim's jaw had stopped spasming, although the blush remained. The other detectives were just as interested as the non-detectives, as they'd never heard this particular story, either. The only one who was smiling was Joel, who remembered the incident. Simon took another sip of coffee and continued.

"Well, when the sellers showed up, they walked right past him, didn't even notice him sitting there next to the dumpster. It was like he was invisible. While the suspects checked out the alley and awaited their buyer, the detective pulled out his cell phone and called for backup. He'd seen the large suitcase, hopefully full of drugs, but hadn't actually seen them yet. Dispatch put him on hold."

There were several groans of dismay at that. It didn't happen very often, and usually only to someone not trusted or strongly disliked and, although there had been a lot of people who hadn't liked Jim, he had them generally intimidated enough that they didn't cross him. For him to have been put on hold showed a great deal of stupidity for the dispatcher involved.

"Whatever became of Terrance, anyway?" Joel asked.

"Quit right after the bust, but I'll get to that," Simon answered, before continuing his story. "Well, while the detective sweated being on hold, the buyers showed up. The deal was going down and he was one man against half a dozen drug dealers, all armed and more than willing to kill. Just about the time he was going to hang up and try calling in again, one of the sellers' cell phone went off. Well, everyone got nervous and watched each other really close while the guy answered his phone. He hadn't been on more than a couple of seconds when he started looking around frantically. Luckily, they didn't spot the detective hiding behind the dumpster. The guy started yelling, telling the others to look for a cop who was supposed to be there, but that only scared the buyers, who thought that one of the sellers must be the cop, and the sellers were convinced that one of the buyers must be a cop. Meanwhile, the detective, realizing that the only person who could have called to warn them was the dispatcher he was on hold with, hung up and called 911."

Simon paused again to drink some more coffee. He grinned at Jim, who returned it, still blushing somewhat.

"So, what happened?" Tyrell asked, wondering why most of the detectives were snickering.

"Well, the buyers and sellers, each thinking that the others had set them up, ducked for cover and started shooting at each other. The detective just had to stay out of their way until they were through and just walk up and arrest the ones left alive."

"Oh, man. That's cold," Tyrell exclaimed.

"No, that's wisdom. Had he done anything else, he could have been killed. By waiting, he kept himself unharmed and the bad guys took care of each other. Of course, when I heard about it, I definitely chewed his ass."

"But, why?" Tyrell asked, aghast that the detective should have gotten in trouble for getting drugs and the people who sell them off the streets.

"Because," Jim answered for his captain, "I didn't have the proper backup. I went in alone, into a very dangerous situation, one that could have gotten me killed. I was lucky. If they'd looked around, I was right there, an easy target."

"But... You tried to do it the right way, but nobody believed you," the teen insisted.

"I didn't tell my captain. If I had, I would have had backup, at least a partner. He was right to read me the riot act," Jim explained.

"Not that it's ever done any good," Simon added, grinning.

"So, what happened to the drug dealers?" Blair asked, having slid down into the chair and snuggled Cecilia into his lap.

"Well, surprisingly enough, they all survived and, although Terrance's friend never fingered him as a part of the gang, but since it was all on tape, his putting Jim on hold and leaving him there, plus the 911 call, he decided to quit and ended up leaving Cascade. I have no idea what ever became of him," Simon admitted.

"They really were dumb," Tyrell muttered.

"Well, not really," Blair disagreed. "They didn't know each other, so when the call came in, with Jim out of sight, they just jumped to the wrong conclusion. They didn't take the time to think that a cop doesn't normally work alone, if they had, they'd have known that the other group wasn't cops. They just both jumped to the wrong conclusion, is all."

"Well, one good thing came from the whole fiasco," Simon said, catching Jim's eyes and smiling. "Jim found out that he could trust me to back him up. He's never hesitated to hit me with anything off-the-wall, since. Have you, Jim?"

"Well, a couple of times," Jim smiled, his gaze turning to his partner, who returned the grin. "But for the most part, yeah. That taught me to 'go to my captain when I have a problem'. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that he always listens to me..." His tone was teasing, as his gaze went from his partner to his captain, the meaning clear to those who knew the circumstances of Jim's meeting and teaming up with Blair. Those who were aware of those circumstances chuckled, knowing that even now, Simon preferred to not know too much about the 'Sentinel thing' as he so frequently called it.

The laughter, however, was mellow and friendly, without rancor. With the last of the stories, however, the evening was officially over. Reluctantly, Blair said goodnight to Cecilia as he got his coat. Simon also seemed a bit reluctant to leave, but he managed to get a few quiet words with Esther, asking her and Tyrell to join him and Daryl the following day for a trip to the amusement park. Her affirmative response left him grinning broadly as he gathered his coat and joined the others at the door, saying their final farewells. Brown and Rafe were the first to actually leave, calling their goodnights out to the others and taking off. Megan had begged the cookie recipe from Mable and was right behind them. Jim had walked Ronnie out to her car, making his own plans for the weekend with her. Finally, however, all the good-byes were said and everyone had gotten safely to their vehicles and headed home.

Joel, Mable and Cecilia said their own goodnights and headed off to bed, satisfied with the way the evening had gone. Especially pleased that Esther and Tyrell had stayed so late and joined in. Mable's pleased grin was chided when her husband started calling her 'Yenta'. A title she happily accepted, teasing him right back that he was just as much a meddling matchmaker as she was... with which he had to agree. Cecilia, unable to avoid overhearing their teasing as she headed for her own room, called down her goodnight wishes and that she rather liked having them, meddlers that they were, for her parents.

"Well, we love you, too, sweetheart," Joel called back to her, echoed by Mable's own identical response. Their daughter laughed and closed her bedroom door on the rest of what her parents were discussing, truly thankful that her parents had enough love not only for their own family, but enough to share with their extended family and friends, as well. She just hoped that she would be just like them, with a marriage just as strong... someday.

Her dreams were filled with thoughts of Blair and the possibilities...

I was going to add to this, but for some reason, this seems as good a place as any to stop. If you don't like OFCs, don't bother to flame me for this. I've been getting enough positive feedback to have decided to continue with them. I've put a disclaimer in the blurb, so if you read it and don't like it, don't blame me, you were warned. As for those of you who like the OFCs, yes, the ladies will be back, sooner or later. What may or may not happen is totally up to my musae, but that's another story (or twelve).

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to TAE


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