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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Imperfect Crime

The following is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed below are purely fictional. Any resemblance or similarity to real persons or events is purely coincidental.

The following is copyrighted to Blogannath. All rights are reserved.

The Imperfect Crime

The perfect crime requires perfect planning. And perfect timing. And perfect execution.

Mike Kopesky had planned perfectly. He had returned to his suburban Detroit home after a weekend in California, to find his wife's body hanging in the basement, with a noose around her neck. There had been a quilt and a couple of blankets, and a toppled-over stool next to them on the floor of the basement.

After Mike "recovered from the shock", he had called police. Everything had gone according to plan as he had explained to the police that he had been away from home when it had all gone down. He was nowhere near his wife when she died, and the police seemingly had no reason to suspect him. It was an open and shut case of suicide.

So, why was he now sitting in an interrogation cell at the police station, getting the third degree from a couple of detectives playing good cop, bad cop with him? The detectives kept asking him how he had done it. And when he refused to answer, feigning ignorance, they would leave him alone for an hour or so, then come back and start asking him why he had done it.

Mike had been married for about 3 years now. The first year had been very good. Mike doted on his wife day and night. He took her out to expensive restaurants and bought her expensive presents. It was as if he was still dating her rather than being married to her.

But, slowly, Mike found out he was not made for married life. He missed the freedoms his single friends enjoyed. He listened with envy as they recounted tales of late nights at bars and even later nights in strangers' beds. They were having the time of their lives while it seemed he was having his life force sucked out of him slowly.

His wife was as accommodating as she could be while still being his wife. She never stopped him from meeting his old friends and going out with them. In the beginning, she had wanted to go with him, and get to know his friends better, but that changed over time too. Mike did not seem to want her around. She got the feeling he resented her. She got the feeling he regretted getting married to her. She got used to being alone at home alone while he went out without her more and more often.

But her frustrations with Mike often boiled over into angry arguments. Mike missed her birthdays and their anniversaries while he was out carousing with his friends. He hardly ate at home, and when he did, he always made disparaging remarks about her cooking. Mike's wife desperately wanted to make the marriage work, but things were not looking good.

When she finally and reluctantly brought up divorce, Mike had gone ballistic and threatened her with physical harm. Their arguments had become more and more common and frequent. At one point, Mike's wife had called the police because she was truly afraid Mike would hurt her. Mike had come to his senses quickly enough and apologized profusely. He was warned by the police to watch himself, but he had not been arrested or charged.

Mike was now convinced that his marriage was a dead end. He thought long and hard about divorce as his wife had suggested. Love had blinded him when he got married to his wife, though. He had not had her sign a pre-nuptial agreement at that time. This meant that he might be on the hook for substantial amounts of money during the divorce proceedings. He could also be on the hook long-term with alimony payments.

Mike had taken out a large life insurance policy on his wife soon after marriage. Mike had not taken out the policy with the intention of cashing out on it. He had actually considered it a demonstration of his love for his wife. He considered the insurance policy a testament to the value he placed on her life.

But now, Mike had started wondering if he could take advantage of the insurance policy to kill two birds with one stone. Perhaps, there was a way to be rid of his wife without having to pay a divorce settlement or alimony. And at the same time, make some money off the process of being rid of her too!

But, as with all such products, the insurance contract specified that for the first two years after the contract was in force, no payment would be made if the insured committed suicide. Mike started planning the perfect crime as soon as that part of the contract was no longer in force. Mike was convinced the perfect crime was a self-inflicted crime, with the criminal and the victim being one and the same person!

His research had lead to a plan he had considered quite fool-proof. And his execution had been completely flawless too, as far as he could tell. The coroner had indeed concluded that his wife had died sometime during the evening or night on Saturday. He had flown out to California on Friday night and had not returned until Monday morning. Mike was justifiably confused as to what had allowed the detectives to latch on to him as the prime suspect in his wife's death.

Mike was getting confused about a lot of other stuff too. He had been sitting in this interrogation cell for the better part of two days now. The police station backed up to a rail line with constant freight traffic. The passing of trains made the whole building vibrate. The loud horns of the trains made him jump. Most of his food intake seemed to be hot, strong coffee to keep him awake. The bright light shining into his face constantly blinded him.

When he fell asleep in brief spells, he always awoke to a dream in which he was running down a long tunnel. He was trying to exit the tunnel before a train entered the tunnel from the other side. A train with a bright headlight and a loud horn. Initially, he had made it closer and closer to the end of the tunnel before the train smashed him to bits on its front grill, but lately, he was getting weaker and weaker. His legs felt like they were made of rubber and his lungs felt like he was breathing from under a wet pillow. The train's light was getting brighter every time too, and had turned into a wall of light rather than a train with a headlight.

Mike's head was pounding with a fierce headache when he awoke once again from his dream, to the sound of detective Steve's voice. Steve was saying something about evidence and puzzles. Mike came out of his dream a little more. Steve looked into his face and asked him whether he understood what he had said. Mike shook his head yes, then looked bewildered and shook his head no. All he wanted to do was go to sleep on a soft bed with a stomach full of food. And he wished he would never hear the sound of a train whistle for as long as he lived.

Steve sat down in front of him and started talking to him again. Slowly this time. As if he was talking to a second-grader who was having trouble understanding him. He said, "Mike, we know you killed your wife. We have enough circumstantial evidence to convict you and put you away. We don't know the full details yet. But we may be able to do something to convince the prosecutor to seek a lower sentence for you if you come out with the truth yourself. Give us the details and we can all get this behind us." Steve was obviously the good cop in the good-cop-bad-cop duo. Steve continued on, "if you do come out with it, I will make sure you get a good meal, and you can sleep in a soft bed with the lights turned off. Come on, don't make life more difficult for yourself."

Mike's brain was high on caffeine while at the same time it wanted to nod off given half an excuse. His eyes were burning holes in his head and he could barely keep his head up at this point. Having a good meal and sleeping in a soft bed, at least once, seemed like a good deal, to trade for his confession. The part of Mike's brain that wanted to sleep got the better of the part of his brain that wanted to hold out. The sleep-deprived part of his brain seemed to have a direct connection to his mouth too!

And once he got going, there was no stopping him. Steve's audio recorder and the video recorder in the interrogation room caught the entire confession as it came pouring out of Mike's mouth.

Mike had planned his California trip after his plan had been finalized. He did not explain to his wife why he had to go to California that weekend, but his wife had come to expect little in the way of explanations for his actions in the past few months. At least in the past few days, he had shown some signs of extra kindness to her, asking about her health, staying home instead of hitting the bars with his friends, helping out with the chores around the house, etc. Mike had to learn about her normal schedule and activities to be able to do what he had in mind without arousing suspicion!

On Friday, Mike had opened one of his wife's prescription sleeping capsules, and emptied the contents of 3 more of those capsules into this one. Her doctor had given her these capsules to enable her to sleep better. Ever since Mike and his wife had started fighting, she had had trouble sleeping properly. Mike knew his wife used sleeping pills, but not the details until he started doing the research. Perfect planning was a big part of the perfect crime!

Mike had learned in the week before his trip that his wife took one of these capsules after dinner. He also learned that the capsule contained flurazepam, a very long-acting sedative that usually ensured she got at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep. With the contents of 4 capsules in this one capsule, she was going to be asleep for at least 24 hours if not more.

Mike's plan had been for his wife to sleep on top of the ice while the ice melted slowly. He had calculated that the ice would melt by about a couple of feet in about 18 to 20 hours. He wanted his wife to die at around that time, when he was in California. If she died any earlier, it would start looking suspicious, so he wanted to make sure he got it just right. But he did not want the ice to to take longer than 18 to 20 hours for it to melt by two feet because he wanted his wife to still be asleep when the ice had melted about two feet. Perfect timing was a big part of the perfect crime too!

Very soon after dinner, he had solicitously offered her his home-made capsule with a glass of water and asked her to rest. His wife had taken the capsule with no suspicions, but was surprised at how quickly sleep overcame her. She had not even had time to walk up to bed before she was fast asleep.

As soon as she dozed off, he carried her down to the basement. During the day, he had ordered and received a large block of ice (it had been a challenge keeping his wife from knowing about it, but his luck had held at that point) from a factory that specialized in supplying ice for ice sculptors. They were quite surprised that he wanted the ice delivered to a basement rather than a room where one would hold a party, but he convinced them he was going to make several small sculptures rather than one large one.

He had spread a couple of blankets, quilts and comforters on the block of ice (he made sure they would not get wet because the top of the ice was covered in a plastic sheet). He then fashioned a noose out of rope he had picked up a while back in a hardware store. He slipped the noose over his wife's head, and carefully placed her in a sitting position on top of the block of ice. This part was not as easy as he would have like it, and he had to adjust the length of the noose several times to get it just right. But, finally, he managed to get it positioned so that the noose would not constrict around her neck until the ice melted a couple of feet or so. Mike had been proud of his ability to work things out perfectly, even if it took some time and effort. Perfect execution was the linchpin that made his whole plan come together and work!

He had then put a stool on its side next to the block of ice, and left for the airport.

The basics of Mike's plan were quite simple. His wife would sleep on the block of ice with a noose around her neck. As the ice melted, her weight would be transferred to the noose, which would asphyxiate her. And since she would be asleep when this happened, she would not be able to save herself. He did not have to be anywhere near her when it all happened if his calculations were correct. Perfect planning, perfect timing, perfect execution!

When he came back, things looked like they had gone exactly according to his plan. The ice had melted at approximately the rate he had predicted, and was, in fact, completely gone by the time he found the body. The sheets and quilts had protected the parts of his wife's body that were resting on the ice so that they weren't frost-bitten. She had indeed died of asphyxiation, while still deep asleep. The rope had made satisfying bruise marks around her neck, proving that she had been alive when the rope had choked her to death. And she had died late on Saturday evening, a time when he could establish beyond reasonable doubt that he was 2000 miles away, in California.

The perfect crime had been committed, except for some reason, the police weren't blown away by its perfection. In fact, on the contrary, they had firmly concluded that it was his doing, not his wife's.

At the end of this confession, the detectives charged Mike with murder and took him to a holding cell from the interrogation room. They gave him a burger to eat, and the cell had a cot to lie on. When Mike fell asleep, his dreams still had trains in them, but he was now running away from them rather than towards them. He was running towards the dark rather towards a bright light. And the dreams seemed to go on forever, with him never knowing whether the train hit him or not.

Mike awoke the next morning, slightly confused about his new surroundings. How did he get from the interrogation room to this cell? And then things came back to him in small and large pieces. He had admitted to murdering his wife. He had confessed to killing her. He had been pretty clever about his plan too. But something had not worked. The police had arrested him and managed to extract the confession from him. They were no doubt busy preparing their case against him with receipts from the hardware store for the rope, and the ice factory for the ice.

The detective, Steve, brought him breakfast along with a neatly typed up sheet of paper with his confession on it. Mike already knew he was defeated. His confession on tape was more than sufficient to have him convicted. The sheet of paper was just a formality. Mike read through the confession, remembering only the odd detail about his long and ranting confession in the interrogation room the previous evening. The confession could have been more succinct, but the details were all there, and mostly correct as far as he could tell. He signed the confession and returned the sheet of paper to Steve.

But Mike's mind was a whirlwind of confusion. Why had the police concluded that it was murder rather than suicide? The coroner had concluded that she had died only on Saturday night. He had found flurazepam metabolites in her blood, but that was to be expected since she had a prescription for the stuff, and took it regularly. She had died of asphyxiation by the noose, that is what the coroner's report said. What part of his plan had failed? Hadn't the planning been perfect? Hadn't the timing been perfect? And even if he did say so himself, he had executed the plan perfectly too. So, what had been the fatal flaw? He begged Steve to tell him how the police had figured it out. He wanted to know it now, not during his trial in court.

Steve looked at Mike with pity and said, "so you really want to know?" Yes, nodded Mike. Steve then said, "I guess there is no harm in letting you know now. Well, when we found her, your wife's feet were 28 inches off the floor. The stool was only 24 inches tall." A stool, a stool, the rest of my life for a slightly taller stool! Mike put his head in hands and took a deep breath. The large details were 90% of his perfect plan. He had just found out that the small details were the remaining 90% of his perfect plan!

The perfect crime requires perfect planning. And perfect timing. And perfect execution. The perfect crime also requires perfect measurements!

The End

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