There is a famous Colombo episode where he is, as usual, up against a rich and powerful adversary, who constantly flaunts his wealth and superiority before Colombo. Wait a minute…that’s actually every Colombo episode. I’m thinking of one where the murderer is a high-tech genius, mid-70’s vintage. At one point, he shows off to Colombo his high-tech wristwatch…an electronic readout where you actually read the numbers instead of looking at the hands to tell the time! Of course, this was the original red 7-segment LED readout, but in 1975 it was brand new. And ironically, it would be the villain’s downfall. I don’t remember exactly how it came down, but it hinged on the fact that someone remembered something happening at “5:27” instead of “almost fife-thirty”, which could only have meant he was wearing that special watch. It was a typical Columbo “i-gotcha” moment.
And now I was going to have a Colombo moment of my own.
In crafting their story of the home invasion, there were few details the Bushes’ took more care to nail down than the ten-minute interval between the phone call and the doorbell ringing. It first appears in their Statement of Defence as “minutes after Mr. Bush spoke with the Plaintiff…”. In George’s Affidavit, it is framed by the time of the phone call, “approximately 5:00 pm”, and the time when he came up from the basement “at approximately 5:15 pm.” In Heather’s affidavit, she put’s the phone call at “approximately 5:00 pm”, and my arrival at the door at “approximately 5:10 pm.”
Of course I knew they were lying. After driving all the way to the ends of Assiniboia to find their house in a looming blizzard, and having phoned ahead to make sure they were home, why would I sit in my car for ten minutes before ringing the doorbell? It didn’t make sense…unless the Bushes were trying to justify why they didn’t suspect it was me at the doorbell…because George wasn’t trying to evade service, he just happened to have wandered off to the bathroom, or the study, or wherever?
In fact, as soon as I started to realize that George wasn’t going to let me state my business over the phone, but was instead going to hang up on me, I got out of my car and starting rushing for the doorbell…because I still hadn’t verified that this was the right house! If I rang the doorbell while we were still on the phone, I would hear the ringing in my phone, and then even if they didn’t answer, I would have identified the house. I assumed they wouldn’t come to the door, but it wouldn’t matter. I could hire a process server if I wanted…either way, Professor Bush was getting served.
But I got there just seconds after George hung up on me. I was a little surprised when Mrs. Bush actually came to the door, but that makes sense if George said to her, “get rid of him…and whatever you do, don’t let him give you any papers.” Either way, the 10-minute gap doesn’t make sense…except now it was my word against their word. Or was it?
In all their written affidavits, the Bushes were careful to note the times “approximately”. But then I noticed that in the written transcript of his application for a protective order, Bush had placed the phone call at “5:03”….shades of Columbo. How would he know the exact time? He must have verified it by checking his call history. Or maybe he looked it up later on his phone bill? But I have phone bills too. I ordered a copy of my Telus bill, and sure enough a call was placed to the Bushes at 5:03 pm. In fact, it was billed as a two-minute call, so George was evidently doing quite a lot of ranting before he got around to hanging up on me. (It was definitely a one-way conversation because he testified that he didn’t give me the opportunity to state my business.)
But what about the doorbell? Do electronic doorbells have a call-history option? Maybe not, but what about the 911 call after I left? Surely the police have all that on record. But it turns out they won’t just show it to you. You have to make a FIPPA (Freedom of Information) application, they you have to wait a month, and what they end up releasing is hightly censored. To my great disappointment, although the notes of the 911 operator were released to me, they were so blacked out as to be almost incomprehensible. And worst of all the time stamps had been edited out.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Bushes had also made FIPPA applications for the police records, and it seems the police censor was a little more forthcoming with them than she was with me. The Bushes had attached those police records to their affidavits, and evidently the 911 call had been picked up at 5:07:10 (ten seconds after the minute hand passed 12), no more than three minutes after the slamming down of the phone at 5:04!
According to the Bushes, I had called them on the phone and after hanging up on me, they had proceeded with business as usual. George had wandered downstairs, and unbeknownst to him, five or ten minutes later, his wife had answered the doorbell. After a brief standoff in which she asked my name and told me her husband didn’t want to see me, there was a struggle that lasted about a minute, with me trying to desperately force my way in, and Heather desperately trying to keep me out. George wandered back upstairs just after his wife had locked the door on me, to find her “white and shaking”. After taking about five minutes to calm her down, he called the police.
Their timeline adds up to over fifteen minutes. Allowing for human errors in recalling times, it would be altogether believable if it happened in ten minutes or even less. But three minutes? Not a chance.
The Bushes were lying, and I had them cold.