Official police business

(Written on Wednesday).

I raced yesterday and had the worst race I’ve had over here.  Ever.  Except for maybe a month ago when I was also racing while being sick and run-down.  But I was determined to get back on the Belgian draft horse before it was too late.  I think I can still salvage the last sling of races I have planned for the next two weeks if I get some miles and intensity back in my legs.  So far I’ve had a cumulative two and a half weeks of good health since I arrived here in late July.  It’s just been one of those years I guess.  But hey, I felt strong as an ox for those two and a half weeks!

The more exciting news comes with the intensively, painstakingly, investigatively investigation done today by Will and myself involving his hit and run incident on Monday.  Yes, like most bike vs car crashes, it was a hit and run.  Sort of.  The guy T-boned Will while he was on the bike path.  The suspect then stopped, got out to see if Will was alive, and then tried persuading Will that he should ride himself to the hospital.  In his semi-conscious state of mind, Will luckily had enough sense to say no and demanded the guy drive him to the hospital, which was only like four kilometers away in downtown Oudenaarde.  “Please kind sir, would you be ever so good enough to deliver me to the hospital? I’d be forever grateful, good chap.  Later we’ll have tea and biscuits and cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off at the country club and tell grand tales of the War while sipping brandy and puffing cigars.  God save the Queen!”  Will is a southern softy–a derogatory term used by the ‘hard’ men of northern England.  I find it amusing that anyone from England thinks they’re hard.

Being the noob that he is, Will didn’t get the guys license plate or name, but did get a great description of him.  “He was sort of tall, had black or brown hair and was of medium height.”  As Will was being carted off to the X-ray lab, he politely asked one of the nurses to get the culprit’s credentials.  The nurse, being the noob that he was, politely asked the culprit to go over to the police station and turn himself in (the police station is right next to the hospital).  That ended up not happening for some reason.  The guy took off and no one had any clue who he was, despite cameras capturing images of him in the hospital as well as his car in the parking lot.  The surveillance camera in the Hospital parking lot wasn’t able to get the guy’s license plate because Belgian security cameras are made out of cardboard, black spray paint, and semi-functioning kaleidoscopes.  There aint much crime here.  No CSI magical “enhancing” could grow new pixels out of thin air and the photo of the car’s license plate will forever remain a useless blurry image.

Police were informed to keep a lookout for this black VW hatchback.

With his bike smashed to bits, his bleeding, aching liver in need of a stiff drink, and his sensitive soul yearning only for an apology, it seemed like Will was out of luck.  All was lost.  Abandon all hope, all is lost, abandon all hope.  But just like WWI and WWII, ‘Murica stepped in to save the day in the last second.  Detective Inspector KPburritos arrived on the scene.

After a trip to Colruyt to whet our appetite for crime–I mean crime-solving–, we stopped off at the police station for a shake down.  Will had already been there earlier that day, but now he had backup and his soft English expression had turned to a slightly more hardened, brow-furling grimace.  We took seats in a room with a police officer behind a desk and tried to find out what Will’s options were and what progress the investigation had made in the last 80 minutes.

No, the police would NOT be covering the cost of his bike (for some reason Will thought they had said this earlier).  No, the hounds had not been released.  No, no suspects had been captured.  No, there was no police line up, due to the lack of suspects being captured as previously mentioned.  No, they would not issue me a police horse for the day.  While Will calmly talked to the police officer I sat with a stern face, arms folded across my chest, head nodding in disapproval…trying to stay awake.  Classic case of good-cop, bad-cop vs. real-cop.  This got us nowhere.

Will attempted using one of the police computers to show where he’d been hit on Google maps, but the police station internet was too slow to use Google maps.  I asked if the photo of the car (which we hadn’t seen) could be sent to Will’s email address so he could look at himself (it was on a CD).  But it was five o’clock and the “computer expert” had already left.  In the police officer’s defense, taking an image off the CD in front of her and then sending it as an attachment on gmail would require the internet to be fast enough for gmail.  So that was no option.

The interrogation of the police officer was just about over and obviously not going anywhere so we decided that we should A) find the local VW dealer in the area and contact them about any suspects coming in with a dent on their car’s hood and bumper.  They guy would want to fix these things soon; B) we needed to go survey the route through the city that the guy had taken to drive Will to the hospital and see if there were any more surveillance cameras that might have captured the license plate.  I was pretty sure there was one next to the draw bridge that might have caught an image of the bastard; C) return to the crime scene to see if we could find his car anywhere near by.

There turned out to be two cameras on the draw bridge, one aimed perfectly at where the guy would have driven.  But the camera wasn’t able to read a license plate number.  We went into the operator’s booth next to the bridge and had him show us the screen and it was too wide-angled to be of any use.  It was just for safety to make sure no one got crushed.  Pfff.  Stupid.

Next, I rode on by myself, since Will was on foot, to where I thought he’d been hit.  I went up and down a few streets searching for a black VW hatchback with scratches or dents on the hood.  It turns out roughly 97% of cars in Oudenaarde are black VW hatchbacks.  My thinking was that the guy probably lived near the area where he’d hit Will since that area is just houses, no businesses or cafes.  Although I did find a half dozen black VW hatchbacks that matched Will’s description, I didn’t find one with any damage to the front.  It turned out that I hadn’t been in the right area (I’d never seen the exact location on Google maps).  Will had been hit a few kilometers further north. I went home eventually because I stared getting cold and bored and hungry, but Will continued on later that evening by himself searching for the car in the area where he’d been hit.  And he found it.  Parked in front of the guy’s house.  Criminals always return to the scene of the crime.  Especially if they live there.

Will took pictures of the license plate, the inside of the car, and the damage to the front end, and then came to got me.  Should we go back to the man’s home with rubber gloves, ski masks, and socks full of soap?  Or should we go back to the police station with the photos?  I wanted to go to the guy’s house and have some words, but knew that the police station was a better idea.  Besides, it would take forever for Will to walk back there since he had no bike.

We busted through the station doors in slow motion, ACDC blaring on the soundtrack, black leather jackets unzipped and blowing in the wind revealing our colt-45’s, aviators covering our stone-cold gazes, women police officers swooning.  Everyone dropped what they were doing and stared in awe and admiration.  We’d busted the case wide open.  The biggest hit and run bust in Oudenaarde history.  They’d write books about us.  This was the stuff of legends.

I expected the police to offer us jobs as detectives; they were astonished Will had managed to track the guy down.  They seemed to ask, “What?! A case solved?  Really?  By leaving the station for a few hours and looking for clues at the crime scene?”  The police got their SWAT gear on fast when they realized that this guy might and could likely have been the same man behind the unsolved Chocolate-Covered Waffle Heist last month up in Brugge.  There aren’t that many criminals in Belgium; and the police believed that the two crimes Belgium has had this year could very well have been committed by the same person.

And that’s the story of how Will and Kennett solved the case.  The reward: knowing that justice would once again be restored to the innocent townspeople of Oudenaarde.  Plus a new bike for Will.