Monday, May 11, 2009

Scene of a Homicide

I was on my way to an interview yesterday with a homicide detective, and she called to cancel because she was at a homicide scene. Of course I responded, “Can I come down there? Please!”

So I ended up at a riverside park with the whole homicide team, asking questions and feeling giddy with excitement. I know, I know. A person was dead, and that's a tragedy. But I couldn’t help it. It made me think about the show and character Castle, and how excited he gets when he’s called out to a homicide. How silly it seemed for him. Hah! I felt like a teenager at a party with the cool kids.

Of course, they didn’t let me anywhere near the body (dang!), but still, the afternoon was very educational. I learned about a cool gadget called “total station” that’s used to create computerized maps of the area. And I learned that a big guy in a black undertaker-like suit driving a mini van comes to pick up the body. I’m still checking it out, but I think he’s a contractor for the county who simply picks up dead bodies when called out and takes them to the autopsy room at the hospital. A mini van! It’s not how I visualized it.

Mostly what I realized is that you can strive for realism when you write these scenes, but you can’t replicate reality or you’ll bore your readers to death. Everything happens very slowly—unless the killer is still on the scene. Otherwise, there’s lots of standing around. When I showed up, the detectives were all eating pizza out of box flopped open on the hood of a cruiser. It seemed so odd, I almost laughed out loud. Nobody eats pizza at the homicide scenes I write, and no one ever will.

Other things I learned about the sergeant who invited me to the scene:
  • She supervises a team of eight male detectives and gets no flack about her gender.
  • She remembers the name of every homicide victim she and her team have investigated.
  • She’s still going to sit down with me for a formal interview next week, so I can ask about her career and write a profile about her for the paper.


Jenni said...

Great post. Thanks! I went on a couple of ride alongs with friends who are city cops. Both times nothing happened....

Angela Harms said...

I'm glad to hear she remembers their names. That makes me think they'll take this seriously.

I'm a little curious how they will gather information, because the folks I know who where there when it happened don't feel at all safe talking to the cops. But I hope they find a way. The killer is probably out there, right now, among my friends.

m said...

Great post, great opportunity, great Castle reference.

I think I would have been giddy too. And I might have asked for a piece of pizza!

BTW: My first crime scene will involve someone eating pizza.


Gayle Carline said...

You are a GODDESS! How cool, to hang with real police at a real crime scene! I'm soooo jealous.


Susan Kelley said...

Wow, talk about great research. I've spoken with many policemen and though they all have some amusing or exciting stories to tell, they all agree a lot of their work can be boring and time consuming.

Paul Brazill said...

Top post! what a day! I went to Tesco...

Helen Ginger said...

Yay, LJ! What luck. I'm excited just hearing about it.

You know, sooner or later, you're gonna stick in the pizza eating. You can't let that go to waste!

Straight From Hel