Editor's Note: For the first time in the history of the San Mateo County Fair, a 300-page anthology has been published that includes more than 100 stories, poems and essays from writers who submitted award-winning work for the fair's literary contest. The idea was the brainchild of Bardi Rosman Koodrin, a San Bruno resident who runs the fair's literary contest, and the anthology, titled "Carry the Light," features work from many Peninsula writers. We will be featuring excerpts from the anthology in the coming weeks.
Frank Crane has been a licensed private investigator in the greater Bay Area for over 35 years. His career began working for Joe Penny, a more renowned, old school investigator in San Francisco. One of the major law firms they worked for was headed by an attorney named Steve Murray. After Joe’s death, when Frank went out on his own, he first hired and then partnered with Wendy. Wendy has been compiling stories about Frank’s career. The following is one such story.
From p. 25, "The Elephant Trap"
“Listen, son, I can’t help you out, but you’re on the right track. Don’t give up; keep pursuing your line of inquiry.”
Frank was disappointed, but elated at the same time. He would just have to figure out a different approach. He had the videos he had taken at the accident scenes. He reviewed them again and noticed there was a different towing company in each instance. He decided to interview the drivers of the trucks of the towing companies. He quickly discovered that Acme Towing had the contract with Cal Trans to haul out the big rigs and buses.
Frank went to Acme and explained that he was working on a case involving an accident that occurred a year ago on Hwy 880. The yard boss told him he should just go out to the yard and talk with the drivers directly. Back in the 1980’s people were not so afraid to be interviewed and when he outlined what he was looking for, one of the drivers, Tommy, said “Doncha mean Highway 17? I just can’t get used to calling it 880.”
Frank turned to him and asked him if he could talk with him in more detail.
“I’m just gettin’ off duty; by talk, do you mean over a beer?”
Frank nodded and they met up shortly at a nearby watering hole.
“So, Tommy, you do a lot of the big rigs, right?”
“Yeah,” Tommy replied. “Say, is this on your expense account?”
Frank did not have an expense account, but he said, “Sure, whatever you want.”
When Tommy’s shot and beer arrived, and Frank’s soda was delivered, they began to talk. (Frank did not drink but he never begrudged an interviewee a drink, sometimes a drink made the interviewee even more forthcoming). Tommy said, “Here’s lookin’ atcha.” He threw back the shot, and then sipped his beer. “So? Whaddya wanna know?”
Frank explained the case to him and that he was looking to find out just how many accidents there had been at that particular place.
“Oh, sure, lots and lots. It’s known as the “Elephant Trap” cause it takes down so many big rigs and buses and such.”
“The Elephant Trap? Who calls it that?”
“We all do. Hey, you should talk to that Highway Patrol guy.”
“The guy who keeps all the statistics.”
“What guy? I went to the Highway Patrol headquarters in Oakland and asked if there were any accident statistics, but they said no.”
“Yeah, well, he’s not there no more. He got transferred to Fresno. They called him a whistle blower. He kept statistics on the “Elephant Trap” and on the 580/80 left split accidents and some other hot spots too. He raised so much trouble with Cal Trans, they agreed to re-do the whole 580/880 split.”
Frank couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Do you by any chance know his name?”
Excerpted from "Carry the Light" with the permission of Sand Hill Review Press, the publisher. The book is available for purchase for $12 on Amazon.com.
Linda Brown has had the opportunity to work with a detective and decided to fictionalize the cases they worked on and also to write about cases from earlier in his career.