Which of course stands for “What Would Columbo Do?” About
what, you ask? Well, calm your heinie down for about ten seconds and I’ll tell
you. Do you remember about a week or so back when I tried to play a mystery
game where I gave you some clues in a story and asked you to deduce what
happened? Well tonight we’re going to try something similar, except this story
is true. And, unfortunately, this time I don’t have the answer. I’m leaving
that up to you.
This took place about twenty years ago in the home of an old
man. I had traded my soul for a stockbroker’s license and had come to the old
fellow’s home to try to squeeze his life savings out of him. By which I mean to
help him achieve his investment goals. Ahem. He was a pleasant old coot and showed
me the small aviary he had constructed to keep what seemed to be about a dozen
“The doctor told me I should get a hobby,” he said.
The reason for the advice was that he was the full-time
caretaker for his wife, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. She was sitting in
a recliner in another room, seeming as innocent and childlike as the day she
was born. He took me into the dimly-lit room to introduce me.
“She has good days and bad days,” said the old man. This, I
knew, was clearly one of her bad days. That she didn’t recognize me was to be
expected; that she didn’t recognize her own husband was heartbreaking.
I never did sign the old man as a client, but I did spend
some time talking to him. He seemed to need some companionship, desperately, so
I gave him about an hour and then said good-bye. I then stuck my head into the
other room to say good-bye to his wife. Nothing.
I was surprised when about six months later the old man
suddenly walked into my office. He still wasn’t interested in any of the bogus
investments my company was pushing and I wasn’t sure why he had come. To chat?
Whatever the reason I couldn’t deny that he seemed happier and…more free. He
appeared as if a giant weight had been lifted from his shoulders; and so it
He had dropped by to show me some photos. He and his wife
had been driving somewhere in the middle of Nevada
when they had had a horrible car
accident. He showed me pictures of the crushed vehicle with a pride that men
his age usually save for pictures of their grandchildren. Or mistresses.
“I walked away from that without a scratch,” he bragged.
His wife hadn’t been so lucky. She had died on impact, right
there in the middle of Nevada
desolate void. Frankly the whole idea of this old guy practically beaming while
showing me photos of the wreckage from the accident that had killed his wife
was a bit off-setting. And creepy.
So here’s what we have: An old man trapped in a house that
had become a prison as he was forced to care from his ancient and unaware wife.
A car trip through one of the emptiest places in the West, followed by a fatal
accident with no witnesses. And an aftermath of one dead wife, one unharmed old
man and a car mangled beyond recognition.
So tell me, what exactly happened on that desert road? How
was the old man able to walk away unharmed while his passenger died? It
happens, I know. Where did this inscrutable sense of pride come from and why
was he even showing me these gruesome pictures in the first place? Was he
simply glad to be alive or was he bursting to tell someone, anyone, what he had
done? So tell me, what do you
think happened? And more importantly, what
would Columbo do?