The Voice from the box asked, “Name?”
“Detective Sergeant, Homicide, from Tracy. Do we have to do this? I come here about once a month. You know me. I know you. You know why I’m here. Just cut out the Malarkey.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Yeggs, but we have this form that needs to be filled out. If it doesn’t get filled out properly, the entrance door will not be unlocked. Besides, Malarkey doesn’t work this shift.”
“That’s Detective Sergeant Yeggs. Detective is okay, but not Mister.”
“Oooh. He’s touchy today. I just had a thought.” I thought ‘How could a voice coming from a box have a thought?’ “If detectives are often called ‘Dick’, and you are the best Dick Tracy ever had, why isn’t your job title, Dick Sergeant instead of Detective Sergeant?”
I was getting steamed. “For one, the name’s taken. Someone just wiggled their nose and poof, can’t use that title anymore.”
When the laughter from the box died down, the box asked, “Who are you here to see?”
“Same as always. I’m here to see my old man.”
“We need a name.”
“His name is …”
“No, no, no. Please, explain the name, Detective Sergeant Deviled Yeggs.”
“You know, you guys are so lucky that I have already surrendered my service revolver.”
More laughter. I counted to 12. Ten never works when I come to the prison to visit the old man. “Okay, here goes. You know those pickled eggs that are in jars of purple or blue liquid in Chinese restaurants? You might point to the jar, but the waiters will make a bad face and shake their heads. Even they won’t touch ‘Thousand-Year-Old Yeggs’. That’s my old man’s name. Since it has the word ‘Old’ in it, he’s been ‘Old Man’ Yeggs since kindergarten.”
More laughter, but the voice asked, “Just curious. What is your grandpa’s name?”
“You already know. Grandpa is Millennium Yeggs. I know, it’s the same thing, but Grandpa didn’t want any ‘Juniors.’”
“Oh, one last question. Is this a personal family visit or are you here on official business?”
“Come on, guys. If this was official, I’d have my partner, Jim Wednesday, with me. Right?”
With the form filled out, including the questions that only I had to answer, there was a buzz and a clank. The door rolled to the left and I stepped into the second chamber. The door closed behind me with a resounding thud and louder clank. Every time I heard that noise, I thanked the Lord that I had gone straight. I also began to sweat. It wasn’t the heat, and I’m not claustrophobic. Nah. Maybe I am.
The voice said, “He’s in room four. You know, you’d get past these hurdles a lot quicker if you answered questions without all of that angst. Old Man has been waiting for a while.” More laughter as the second huge door unlocked and started moving.
When I entered interview room four, my old man screamed at the top of his lungs, “You’re gettin’ nothin’ out of me, Copper!” Then in a softer voice, “How was that? Think they bought it?”
“Nice seeing you again, Dad. How’s Grandpa?”
“He’s lost a step. He escaped a month or so ago. He wanted to rob another bank, but by the time he had escaped, broken into the vault, and lifted the warden’s safety deposit box, he was too tired to carry it out of the vault. When the bank manager showed up the next morning, they gave him some oxygen and drove him back here.”
“He sure has a thing for the warden, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah. Remember the time (I already started nodding my head. I knew what was coming.) when Grandpa got into an argument with the warden. He said he could open any lock that ever existed. The warden then asked him why he was still in jail then. The next morning, Grandpa didn’t want to go into the exercise yard. He said he had already had his exercise. A couple of hours later, the police showed up at the prison, having been given an anonymous tip to search the warden’s office. Seems that $10,000 dollars was stolen from a local bank. Their search at the prison found the money in the warden’s desk file drawer under a file marked, ‘Told you so.’” My old man laughed. Seems like everybody at this prison loves to laugh.
But I knew a few that weren’t laughing. We had an unsolved murder in Tracy that might be connected to the rotten apples syndicate. At this point, I didn’t have a clue who did the deed. But I knew I would probably not get information out of the guy who flushed the mouse down the toilet, literally, once I had a suspect. It just smelled of rotten Red Delicious, and my old man was a couple of cells down from Mr. Apple in the cell block. Although Red’s wife, Gala, ran the mob in his absence, Red Delicious pulled the strings. I was hoping to bore the curious guards that might me on the take from Red Delicious with boring stories about Grandpa that they’d heard a hundred times. Also, with not having my partner along, we might slip in some information worth hearing without being heard.
I whispered, “Okay, Dad, we’re stuck on a case that smells delicious. Have you heard anything?”
The old man spoke a little louder, “Everything in the cell block is as usual. There’s a buzz around that Tom finally caught Jerry’s cousin, Nibbles. Too tuff to eat; Tuffy, he was. So, Tom flushed him down the drain.”
“Tom’s out of the picture. Alibi checks. Any hints? And keep your voice down.”
The old man winked. “I wouldn’t last very long if I told tales. Delicious is afraid his sister, Honeycrisp, might start singing again. Seems she has tried out for a part in a new musical. Doubt if she gets the part. She’s sweet and crispy, but she can’t carry a tune in a bucket. But oh, how she loves to sing. She’s lost some of her sweetness over the years, but with a little sugar in the right place… She nibbled here or there. She loved to nibble. Nibbled at a Gala event, what I was told. Of course, nibbling causes you to grow big ears. Might hear something you shouldn’t…” He shrugged. I nodded my understanding. The old man asked with a tear in his eye, “How’s your Ma?”
I averted my eyes. My mother married into the family. You wouldn’t think that she would have a name like the rest of the Yeggs, something associated with eggs, and she doesn’t. Her name is Half Dozen Yeggs. She comes from the Donut family. Her father was Another Donut, younger brother of One Donut. The two brothers had girls born on the same day, within an hour of each other. They were immediately dubbed the twins. One’s daughter, Six, and Ma looked alike in every respect, except one had strawberry frosting and the other chocolate (hair color, that is). Other than the frosting, the only way to tell which daughter belonged to which father was the old saying, Six of One and Half Dozen of Another.
“Ma got laid off. She still works there, though, for free. She doesn’t know any other life. I moved her to my spare bedroom. She’s okay.”
“But she owns the place. She can’t lay off herself.”
“No, Dad, she does not own the bakery anymore, and you know why.” It was the reason that my old man caused enough trouble inside the prison for them to keep him there for the max sentence. My old man could not live with what he did. It wasn’t just his feeling of guilt, he feared a woman who was as adept with a rolling pin as Ma was.
My old man was bailed out of jail by Ma, years ago. She was short on cash, so she offered the bakery as collateral. No way that the old man would skip. But the old man was short on cash too. He broke into a bank through the storm drains to get enough to pay the lawyer fees, but there was a cave-in that trapped him for about a week. When they noticed the missing money, and my old man’s signature style, they started looking. When they dug through that section of the sewer, his court date had come and gone. The bakery had already been deeded to my mother’s chief competitor, and she worked for them until she got laid off.
“Tell her that I’m sorry, Son.” I nodded my reply. We talked about guys that Jim Wednesday and I had put away for a while before it was time to go.
I hoped that the guards had not been paying attention. The old man had mentioned Honeycrisp’s love of singing and how she didn’t do it that well. He said she needed a little sweetener. So, I figured Red Delicious is worried that his sister’s recent financial setbacks might lead to her giving up a name. As for the motive, if Nibbles had attended a party at Gala’s house as Honeycrisp’s plus one, he might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, big ears and all. This case might not be solved by a long shot, but I think my old man just gave me the lead that I needed.
Credits (or tie-ins):
The story about Grandpa getting too tired to lift the safe deposit box was in honor of an old television show, Car 54, Where Are You? There was an episode of the short-lived series (but long on reruns) that involved flashbacks to a case foiled by Officer Muldoon’s relative (can’t remember which, but also played by Fred Gwynne, famous for his next role, Herman Munster). When the gang got out of prison, they went back to pull off the perfect crime, but they were too old and feeble to lift the bars of gold bullion. All in a single 30-minute TV show.
The second Grandpa caper is a remembrance, totally different circumstances, that landed someone that I know in hot water. This falls under the title of ‘Kids, don’t try this at home.’ Pranks are not worth jail time or even detours in your career path.
Honeycrisp made her debut in this episode, because my wife really likes them.