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Below the Beltway

Have Gunk Will Travel

A gumshoe trails a slippery character

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, January 2, 2005; Page W11

In my racket, you see all types. Jokers. Wiseguys. Goofballs. But the guy I've been looking for is one of a kind. This clown has me rattled. And I don't rattle easy, not with the sick stuff I see every day in my line of work.

I'm a humor dick. And I'm on a stakeout.

(Eric Shansby - For The Washington Post)

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com. Here is an archive of columns.

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Subject: Robert F. Chamberlain.

Residence: McLean, Va.

Offense: Vandalism.

M.O.: Criminal use of Vaseline.

Maybe you heard of this guy, seeing as how he made the national news. Or maybe you tuned out, on account of you didn't think it was "important" enough. People like you never do. People like you make me want to puke.

We're talking about one of the greatest criminal masterminds in humor history. You don't think it's as important as two pencil-necks jawing over Social Security?

Follow me here. This guy checks into a Motel 6 in Binghamton, N.Y., one day last May, then checks out. Only it turns out he leaves something behind: Vaseline, smeared all over the room. Fourteen tubs of it, emptied onto the rug, the TV, the bed, the towels, the bathtub. They catch him at another motel, stinking of the stuff.

Oh, he was slick, this guy.

But get this: Last month he pleads guilty, gets a fine and probation, and never says why he did it. His mouthpiece dummies up. The judge doesn't ask. And then the perp just . . . disappears. Slips off to wherever guys like that go. The press says that he can't be found. His phone is turned off.

See, this is where I come in. If you think you can pull some funny stuff and then hop a train to Splitsville, I'm the guy on the trestle with the dynamite. It's the principle of the thing. You don't paint the Sistine Chapel, then slink away and hope nobody notices. You gotta get your props. That's me, the Propmaster.

So I call the Binghamton Motel 6 desk and reach some skirt named Mary. Turns out she was there that day, and eyeballed Room 205: "There was a dull sheen on everything, and it was kind of tacky."

What she saw next hit her in the gut like a three-inch matzoh ball swallowed whole. "You know how hotel rooms have mirrors on the walls? Well, this had a butt mark on it in Vaseline."


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