The Argentine master of short fiction, Jorge Luis Borges -- a man who has exerted enormous influence on the writing style of this column -- once wrote at the opening of his personal anthology, "preferences have dictated this book." Similarly, it is preferences that have dictated this list of best crimes of '99. Of the 250 crimes I've reported (and the something like 3,000 crimes I've read about at the cop shop), these are the golden few -- the crimes that obsess me. Ultimately, there will be some regular readers of this column who will not agree with this list, and may even have in mind a better one; but what else could I do? These are the crimes I love, the crimes (as the neo-Sun Ra Brit band Spaceways once sang) that seem to "step out of time."

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!"/West Seattle/Wed March 9/ 3:00 pm: At 7:55 am, two men from Bainbridge Island hopped on a ferry at Southworth headed toward West Seattle, where a friend was housesitting. One of them carried a suspicious-looking bag, which, as it turned out, was full of stolen property. At 8:30 the men arrived at the Fauntleroy terminal, where they were met by their housesitting buddy. Eager to party, the three immediately walked to the house and started drinking. When they had consumed every last ounce of booze, the three called a cab and had the driver go to the liquor store to fetch a bottle of Southern Comfort. They thought the taxi driver, a Sikh whom they described as a "towel head," had overcharged them for the Southern Comfort. This made them really mad.

As the three sat at the table drinking, fuming about the "towel head" and lamenting the generally lousy state of the world, the man who had brought the bag from Bainbridge Island withdrew from it a stolen gun. The weapon was passed around the table, and when it returned to the Bainbridge man he began waving it in the air, yelling "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" He then racked the chamber of the gun, ejected some live rounds onto the floor, racked the chamber again, put the gun to his head, and pulled the trigger.

In one instant a merciless bullet tore through his skull and brain, exited out of the back of his head, and hit the ceiling behind him. At the sight of the man's sudden death, his two friends "freaked out" and began screaming and hitting the walls. It was only noon. The police arrived at the scene of the suicide/accident (the report simply dubbed it a "death") at 3:00 pm. Officers examined the hole in the wall, finding bits of hair and brain in it. Near the expired body of the Bainbridge man they discovered a fifth of Southern Comfort and one spent round from the gun. Officer Brilliante took photos of the naked gun.

She's Got Legs/Central District/Mon March 29/ 8 pm: Recently, the boyfriend of a Yesler Way woman decided his girlfriend should become a nude dancer and professional escort. Previously, the couple had dated without incident for four years. Although the woman had no interest in this line of work, her so-called boyfriend did everything he could to pressure her into it: In his bolder moments, he threatened to cut off her legs, beat up her dad, and shoot up her grandmother's house. This was not the first time her boyfriend had forced her into something extreme. Thanks to his prodding, she got his name tattooed on her upper leg -- a tattoo he threatened to cut from her flesh during a recent argument. The boyfriend also forced the woman to exercise rigorously at the YMCA on 23rd and Olive, apparently in preparation for escort work. "He wants me to be in shape," she told police, "so I look good."

Police Beat was shocked to learn that this man also had a second girlfriend, whom he openly dated. The two women talked quite a bit (having come to an understanding), and number two told number one she was also being threatened and forced into rigorous exercise. Woman number one filed a report with the police, claiming she feared for her life. "He wears baggy sweat suits," woman number one reported, adding that he has mastered "several martial arts." The boyfriend (and aspiring pimp) also reportedly possesses a gallery of sharp knives, automatic guns, and martial arts weapons.

Praying Spiritually with Kevin Costner/Downtown/Wed June 9/12:15 pm: The police could only scratch their heads when a woman told them she was raped while praying spiritually with movie star Kevin Costner and Wendy Treat, a TV pastor. She said she thought the semen came from a white male who was praying nearby. (Even I can't make sense of this one. Was she praying in her living room, or at a church with a TV screen preaching to her from a pulpit?) The woman asked to be taken to Harborview Medical Center to find out whether God "rebuked the semen from entering me." The ever-patient Officer Smith transported her to the hospital.

Love in the Afternoon, and Morning, and Evening/Downtown/Sat June 5/7:00 pm: A woman reported that her ex-boyfriend was sending unwanted gifts and leaving multiple phone messages at her work. She had dated this man for several years, but when her brother was murdered in February, she neglected to speak to her boyfriend for a week. At the funeral, he confronted her about why she hadn't called or gone out with him that week. The woman was appalled by her boyfriend's "selfish behavior," considering the circumstances, and decided it was best to end the relationship there and then. But despite changing her phone number, moving to a new address, and trying to build a new life, her ex tracked her down at work. And though he is actually dating another woman (her ex-best friend, to be exact), the pesky ex-boyfriend would keep leaving messages that express his supposedly eternal love for her. Exasperated by his preternatural persistence, she called the police, who instructed her on the proper procedure for obtaining an anti-harassment order.

"You are really getting to be an asshole!"/Near Seattle Center/Sun April 11/8:10 am: A worker at the Hostess Cake factory on Aurora Ave N complained to his supervisor that a co-worker was putting too much dough mix into the cake formula, making it difficult to run the mixing machine. Later that day, the over-doughing co-worker confronted his accuser in the company locker room and said: "You are really getting to be an asshole!" The co-worker then pushed the man into the lockers and kneed him in the groin. The man reminded the co-worker they had to work together, and if he continued the assault, he would risk losing his job. The co-worker then stormed out of the locker room. No charges were filed.

Why Did the Chickens Cross the Road?/West Seattle/Sat June 26/9:19 pm: While patrolling the streets of West Seattle, Officer Price observed 14 chickens sneaking across the road to a yard on 35th Ave SW. The officer was unable to capture and contain all of these errant chickens, so he called for backup. Together the officers took the chickens into custody -- though I'm not sure how they were transported. No one has claimed ownership of the chickens, no one knows why they were crossing the road, and it's unclear what business they had at the home on 35th. The chickens are behind bars and will not be released until some important questions are answered.

Large Woman at Large/Montlake/Fri June 25/1:35 pm: A 30-year-old man fears he was sexually assaulted by a "very large" Romanian woman, who he says doctored his tea and took advantage of him while he was helplessly locked in a deep and dreamless sleep. The story goes like this: He was at the Romanian woman's house one evening, when she offered him a cup of tea. When he declined, she pushed him to try her special tea. He relented, and soon after drinking it, plunged into sleep. When he woke the following morning, he saw signs that the woman had "helped herself" (to borrow an expression made famous by Zimbabwe's ex-president, who was in the habit of doctoring his bodyguards' Fantas and Schweppes, then "helping himself" when they had fallen asleep). The victim was given a case number by Officer Smith, and was told he would be contacted later. The Romanian woman is still at large.

Mudede's Fire Sermon/Seattle/Sun Aug 29/All Night: On this, the seventh day which we Americans set aside for our Lord, no less than four of his humble homes of worship were burgled by men who are bound for a hotter hell than the one designated for the author of Police Beat. (My only sin is liquor; Lord forgive me, I just can't let go of that bottle!) It all began with Messiah Lutheran Church on 35th Ave NE, when the pastor responded to an alarm at 2 am. Upon arriving at the violated church, she found $35 of the Lord's money (in change) missing from one of His cupboards. At about the same time, the Calvary Lutheran Church on 23rd Ave NW was broken into by an unidentified man (but God knows who you are; He knows everything and never forgets), who broke into the church office by way of a kitchen window. And while God watched in silence, the thief made off with two computers, a VCR, and $100 from a small safe.

Also around this time, someone broke into the basement of the Woodland Presbyterian Church on N 70th St, but was disappointed when all he found were hanging choir robes. Then, last but not least, at the Sacred Heart Church on Second Ave N, someone smashed the glass door of the rectory, entered God's office, and stole one stick of the Lord's Big Red chewing gum and a stick of His Carefree chewing gum. The evil thief then proceeded to take God's boombox.

I say to all you thieves, do you know the fires of Hell? Do you know what it is like to have your flesh burn forever? Can you imagine that extreme pain? Yes, today you have your gum and your coins, but when you die and are banished from God's light and are left to rot forever in Satan's burning kingdom, you will regret that moment on Sunday August 29, when you violated His property. So, if you want to live, if you want God to show you some fucking mercy, then I recommend you stop burglarizing His houses and follow the example of the author of Police Beat: Let your only sin be the delights of whiskey.

"95% of His Body"/Westwood/Sun Oct 10/7:23 am: This morning, a woman called the police and informed them that her husband was on fire. When the cops (Officer Poblocki and his partner) arrived at the home on Cloverdale St, they found the woman's husband "pacing back and forth" on the lawn, with most of his body severely burned. Officer Poblocki surmised that the burnt man was "upset," and so assured him that fire personnel were on their way. When Seattle Fire Department Unit 27 showed up moments later, the cops began investigating the incident. It didn't take long for Officer Poblocki and his partner to figure out that the seemingly devoted wife was at the cruel center of all this smoke and pain. They placed handcuffs on her and informed her of her rights, as the strong smell of gas seeped out of the house, choking the bright morning air. Her horribly disfigured husband was transported to Harborview Medical Clinic, where, after explaining to the investigating officer how his wife had deliberately set him on fire, he died from the burns which covered 95% of his body.

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