I’m Detective Sergeant Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide out of Tracy. My partner is Jim Wednesday.
It was early on a Tuesday when Jim and I went out for breakfast. We each had our usual. I had sausage, bacon, ham, and hash browns. Jim had pancakes, French toast, and donuts. Jim was reading the newspaper from one county over to the east of Tracy, a mostly rural county with a weekly paper.
Jim queried, “Why do the neighboring homicide detectives hate us, Deviled?”
I gave him a sideways glance. “Where is this going, Jim?”
“The other day, I was going out with Velga. I picked her up at the Stout County sheriff’s office. She said that Detective Wolfe has been working on a homicide for a couple of months. Captain Crunch’s first mate was drowned. He’d been dropped from the ad campaign years ago, so nobody noticed – didn’t make the papers. Wolfe has checked all kinds of angles on this guy. The deceased took his forced retirement well. He started farming. Model citizen. But, Deviled, they tell us to register all unsolved cases after two weeks, sooner under some circumstances. That way other jurisdictions can compare the crime to look for patterns. Nothing. Two months and Wolfe is still sitting on it.”
Jim might be on to something, but he often changes the subject before he starts talking. It was now my turn to shift the conversation to figure out where Jim was going.
“Jim, when are you going to make Velga an honest woman? You two need to settle down. You are already past the children stage of life, but wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to share breakfast with instead of me?”
“Deviled, you know that I’m holding out for Tuesday Weld. Velga’s nice. She’s a better bowler than the other women in the first responder bowling league. She fixes a mean Sklandrausis.”
“Sklandrausis. It is a traditional Latvian, originally Livonian, sweet pie. It is made with rye and has carrots, potatoes, and caraway. Latvians love their caraway. Even got it in their cheese.”
“The Tuesday Weld thing is old news. Velga is the girl for you. That way, you can have caraway every day. Hey, I’m a poet!”
“Yeah, but she works in Stout County, and that is Wolfe’s turf.”
“Jim, they don’t call Detective Wolfe, ‘Lone Wolfe’, for nothing. He doesn’t share anything. I had a conversation with him six months ago. He stared at me for over an hour and never said a word – some conversation – it was riveting.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t explain this article on page one of the Doyle Daily.”
Hmmm. The Doyle County Daily that comes out once each week. It rarely has more than one page.
“Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the cover story?” I was thinking – the only story.
“Silly de Rabbit drowned last week. You know, he’s the one that the kids won’t let him eat the cereal.”
“Jim, people drown. It’s usually an accident. What’s the big deal?”
“Deviled, they both worked for breakfast food companies, and they both drowned, smothered in milk.”
Now I was interested. “What kind of milk?”
“Fresh whole milk, unpasteurized. They pasteurize at the dairy farm, right there as the cows are milked. But, no. This milk is straight from the cow. Sound familiar?”
Sure, it did. Now I had caught up with Jim. A month back we found L. C. Leprechaun, dead, drowned in a puddle of unpasteurized milk. I’d spent most of my time trying to connect L. C. to organized crime, nothing. The Fowl Feathered Gang was pretty much wiped out when Jim and I dealt with Chicken O. de See and that rotten husband of hers. We’ve put a few rotten Apples away, but they’re still going strong. L. C. had no connection with them though. He didn’t gamble. He didn’t go bar hopping. He had his one lady. He was a model citizen. And he had the same line of work as Silly and the Captain’s first mate.
Jim saw the gears turning. He knew I’d pieced it together. He was nodding his head. “And, Deviled, if these other detectives shared information, we could be a lot further along in our investigation.”
“For one thing, Detective Holmes, over in Doyle County, hasn’t been on his case for two weeks. Besides, we know he couldn’t add two and two and come up with four. The only way he ever solves a case is by sheer luck. That’s how he got his nickname, Sheer Luck Holmes.”
“Deviled, you are not going to say it, are you?”
“Okay, Jim, if we’d tied these pieces together sooner, the Feds would have taken over long ago. Jim, it looks like we’ve got a cereal killer.”
“Deviled, I’ve been thinking. We need to do a little digging before we tell the captain our theory.”
“Jim, that could be dangerous. We have so little to go on, and there are all the others in that same line of work. Shouldn’t someone warn the Berry twins?”
“Deviled, Franken and Boo Berry are not twins. They aren’t the same height. They aren’t the same color. I doubt if they are the same species.”
“Maybe the DNA test was faulty, but it came back as being same mother and father, born on the same day. They live one county further to the east beyond Doyle. Looks like our perp is moving east, at one drowning per month. That puts the Berry twins with a bull’s eye on their backs.”
“I disagree with your assessment. I think we’ve got something on this case – we’ve got your hunches that always seem to pan out. I think the reason the other homicide guys from neighboring counties don’t like us is because of our clearance rate. We’ve got one of the best in the country with 83.3% solved homicides. The National average is barely over 60%. Doyle and Holmes counties are below average, for good reason – not sharing information on one side and not so bright on the other.”
Jim was stalling until my lightbulb came on. Then, it did. “Jim, let’s get our detective associates in the neighboring counties to check out local bars. See if any cows have been frequenting the bars.”
“Okay, anyone of the bovine species visiting bars.”
“No, Jim, specifically cows.”
“Aren’t serial killers mostly male?”
“Jim, about one out of every six of these killers is female. The milk came from somewhere. Like they said on that City Slickers movie, maybe the second one, you can yank and pull all you want, but you ain’t getting milk from a bull.”
“Thanks, Deviled, but having been reminded of that, I have this overwhelming urge to wash my hands again.”
I checked the cattle yards to the west of, and including, Stout County. One California cow, by the name of Contented, had escaped a holding pen at the railyard. I asked the manager at the holding pen, “Aren’t all California cows contented?” He said they were, but this one was so contented that she got the moniker.
I thought about that. Must be in the feed. Don’t cows eat grass? California grass, leading to contentment. The right kind of grass might lead to all kinds of contentment, but becoming a cereal killer didn’t sound very contented to me. She must be off her feed.
Jim, got back to me really fast. “Deviled, Det. Wolfe refused to do any bar hopping for us. He says he likes drinking beer in his office and letting others go out to get the information. Strange guy. So, Velga invited me over and we hit a few bars in Stout county. One bar said that they refused to serve cows. When I asked why, the bartender said a couple of months ago, a cow started a stampede in the bar when she made it rain. It was the same day that they found the Captain’s first mate. We got a description of the cow. We then came back to Tracy and hit a few bars on the edge of town. It might be suspicious to see cows wandering in the downtown area. We got a similar incident over on the west side of town. Same description; same day that we found L. C.”
I showed Jim a photo of Contented California Cow. It matched the descriptions. We had our prime suspect. After testing her milk, we knew we had our killer.
I got her into the interrogation stall. I was tired and simply wanted to get to the point. I could tell she was tired also. “Contented, why did you kill those people?”
Contented stuck her nose in the air. “Have you ever read the nutrition information on those cereal boxes. They show how the cereal is such a ‘healthy’ part of a good breakfast.” Have you ever seen a cow do air quotes? Pathetic.
She continued, “Well, I say, land sakes alive! They base their figures on the cereal being in milk! Take the milk out of the bowl, and you have sugar, a lot of carbs, and some chemicals to hold everything together. Someone had to do something to let the world know what was the source of that healthy breakfast. Well, I let them know! Besides, they didn’t have to drown. If they had drunk their milk faster, they wouldn’t have. I’m filing a plea for self-defense, anyway. I could see they had steak dinner on their minds. They are all alike. Filling up on all that sugar makes you hyperactive, dontcha know.”
I could tell she was fruit loops, but it’s a good thing the toucan had flown south for the winter.
As we sat in the office after turning everything over to the prosecutor, Jim asked, “I wonder how you come up with your hunches, Deviled. Why check out the bars?”
“It was a faint odor at the crime scene. Reminded me of the holidays. My mother would fix a special eggnog, called it Yeggnog. She spiked it so well that the old man stayed home and sipped Yeggnog for a few weeks. That kept him out of jail during the holidays, a continuous, mellow buzz, but home. I figured with this being a cereal killer, why not follow the murder weapon?”
With Mike Hammer’s secretary being Velda, Barnie Fife’s girlfriend and eventual bride being Thelma Lou, the speckled sleuth on Scooby Doo being Velma, what’s left? Velga
I will leave the Stout and Doyle county detective names up to the reader. The additional hint provided by Jim Wednesday is that Wolfe stayed in his office drinking beer while the gumshoes did the work requiring shoe leather.
The Doyle Daily is made up, but many things hold a different frequency than what is in the name due to cutbacks. I once suggested to a company doctor, a retired Army general, that they change the name of the annual physical to the biennial physical due to having it every other year. He said that they changed the frequency of physicals as cost savings, which would be lost changing the name in all the paperwork. I wonder if that facility even has a full-time physician anymore?
Lucky of Lucky Charms cereal was originally named L. C. Leprechaun.
Before the days of nutrition labels on food containers, the consumer watchdogs attacked cereals that targeted the child consumer, saying there was nothing nutritional in the cereal. The cereal manufacturers fought back. At this time, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In weighed in on the subject with a sketch involving a ‘reporter’ asking a ‘cereal executive’ how you got the thiamin, calcium, and vitamin D. The response was “if you drink the milk.” To the question of how you got the iron, the response was “if you eat the spoon.” Today there are two columns on the nutrition label, with and without milk.
There is no need to do DNA testing. Booberry cereal was ‘born’ over two years after Count Chocula and Frankenberry hit the shelves. They may be related, but not twins. Or their mother had a very painful, and long delivery. Anything is possible when discussing cereal monsters.
The alternating of ‘cereal’ killer, used by Deviled Yeggs, and ‘serial’ killer, used by Jim Wednesday, was on purpose. That concept is what inspired the story. However, when my wife (who watches a lot of true crime documentaries) reviewed the story, she mentioned that the BTK killer used this homonym in taunting the police investigators. I mean no disrespect. The parallel was accidental. This story is fiction and meant for entertainment.