I’m Detective Sergeant Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. My partner is Jim Wednesday.
Wednesday came in a little late one Monday morning, but he had a spring in his step.
Jim said, “Deviled, in a way, I took your advice.”
I put down the newspaper and sat up straight. This was a rare occasion, but I had no clue what he meant. “Jim, I’m all ears.”
“Ms. Kalnins and I are getting married.”
“Jim, that’s great news. You and Velga make a beautiful couple.”
“Last Friday night, we went out on a date. She told me that she had confided in Det. Wolfe about how I was afraid of commitment. She said that Wolfe told her that I had this crazy idea of marrying Tuesday Weld and having a wife named Tuesday Wednesday. How he knew that, I’ll never know. Maybe he’s a better detective than we thought. She then handed me an official court document. Here’s a copy.”
I read the court document. It said that Velga Kalnins had changed her name to Tuesday Kalnins. I let the paper drop to the desk. I had not seen this coming.
Jim said, “The woman, formerly known as Velga, has gotten everything arranged. She proposed to me on Friday. She bought herself an engagement ring, since she knew that I know nothing about jewelry. She said that I picked out a terrific ring, and it actually fits. I’m rather proud of myself on that score. She has the date picked out. Ms. Kalnins will become Tuesday Wednesday on a Thursday. We will honeymoon at an orphanage, where we had a video chat on Saturday with the management. She has already arranged for us to pick up three children. They will be named Monday, Thursday, and Friday.”
“Woah, Jim, aren’t you going a little fast here?”
“What are you talking about, Deviled? We’ve been dating for twelve years. We’ve been bowling on the same team for fourteen. I liked her the moment I first met her when I was teaching that class at the police academy. And don’t think I was fraternizing with a cadet. I didn’t ask her to join the bowling team until she had graduated.”
As if it were manna from Heaven, the phone rang. I rushed to answer the phone. The call was a short one. We had a new case. They wanted us at the A&B CD and Grocery on the corner of Washington and Jefferson.
We met my nephew, Poached Yeggs, at the front door of the grocery store and he led us to aisle 6. Along the way, he explained what happened. “Deviled, it was the strangest thing. There was this guy who spilled his soup in aisle 6. He goes to the manager and mentions the spill. The manager gets on the intercom and says, ‘Clean up, Aisle 6.’ Then when the clean-up crew starts to clean up the mess, Sparkle Fairy just pops in right next to the clean up crew to suggest that they use her brand of paper towels. She pulls one of the rolls off the shelf. Suddenly, a section of the ceiling gives way and a ton of glitter fell on top of Sparkle. Deviled, Sparkle Fairy was sparkled to death.”
When we reached aisle 6, Jim shook his head. “Deviled, I’m going to call Tuesday. She needs to change the plans on her wedding dress. No sparkles, glitter, or sequins. It’s going to take me a long time to wipe this crime scene from my memory.”
“Don’t look down, Jim. Look up.”
A section of six suspended ceiling tiles was swinging back and forth, held in place by four carabiners. Back in my day, they called them ‘D-Rings,’ but I keep up with some changes. Not many, but some. It looked like the side that had let go, releasing the glitter, had some burn marks. I’d let the crime scene guys do their thing, I had it figured out enough to know the general “how.” Once Sparkle was in position, a small detonation released the catches on one side and the carabiners acted as a hinge on the opposite side. This was done by someone who was handy, but we’d probably find out that the supplies could be obtained by anyone.
Jim and I went to the store manager’s office. His name was Bob. He said his name was Bob, but I had an idea that his name had been changed. He looked like he had just arrived from the subcontinent of India.
“Well, Bob,” I asked. “Did you get a good look at the guy who spilled the soup?”
Bob wobbled his head like a bobblehead doll.
“Bob, I know you saw him. You should bob your head to say ‘yes.’”
Bob said, “The bobbling of my head is in the affirmative that I am telling you. I also can be telling you what he was wearing. He was wearing a red and black plaid flannel shirt and blue jeans.”
“Just what I thought. But to rig the drop ceiling like that had to take some time. Have you had any repair people working in here recently?”
“We should be having our usual electrician working in the early morning hours. We are having few customers between 1:00 and 3:00am. The lights have been flickering, but our usual electrician got someone else to come out. The night manager said that he was a strong man, mustache, hair parted in the middle.”
Jim said, “Deviled, you have told me a hundred times, ‘Never trust a zipper head.’”
“Jim, let’s be sensitive and use a little PC language. Just because the guy can’t make up his mind which way to part his hair doesn’t give us the right to call him a name. Once you get married with the three kids, you’ll need to remember who might be listening.”
I thought it strange that the night manager had noticed such features and passed it along to his boss, but I wasn’t looking a gift horse in the mouth. I asked a few more questions, thanked Bob, and we went back to our office.
On the way, I called in a request for Sparkle’s half-brother to be picked up. He had been partners with Sparkle in the paper towel business. They had a falling out. Sparkle wanted to go for the mass market, while her half-brother thought they should make a stronger, more durable paper towel for the more discerning market. They divided the property with no problem, but then Sparkle started her ‘popping’ thing. She had popped into the store aisle in her commercials for years, but when she learned that she could do it when the cameras weren’t rolling, her sales began to soar. No one knew where she would pop next. The trick worked for her, but her half-brother’s sales went in the tank.
When I explained this to Jim, he asked, “How come the night manager notice the mustache and the placement of the part in his hair, but didn’t notice him modifying the ceiling?”
“I found out that the night manager is female and she thought the guy was rather attractive. But like most servants and service-related people, they become invisible. Besides, he crawled up above the ceiling tile and did most of the work from the other side, out of sight. Remember, Sparkle thought of the common man and inexpensive products. Her half-brother had a thing for quality workmanship. I guess that just might extend to everything that he did.”
But how did he know where she’d be standing, Deviled? If she popped onto the other side of the spill, the glitter would have missed.”
“Simple, Jim, it was all a matter of product placement. Watch a commercial or two. Sparkle was right-handed. She always popped in so that her product was to her right, so that she could grab a roll when needed.”
“You amaze me at times, Deviled.”
“Oh, and Jim, please, please. Name your kids Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, if you must go that way. It is a rare person who likes Monday. Don’t do that to the kid.”
The idea about fraternization has come up when people find out that my wife was enlisted in the Air Force and I was an officer in the Army. Most people who make the insinuation don’t really care, but it leads to salacious conversation and speculation. My wife went from high school to the Air Force. The second of nine children could not afford to go to college. She sacrificed so that her sisters could go. Meanwhile, I went to college. Her enlistment was up, and she was back home when we met. I was the new guy in town, going to graduate school during a deferment from military service. Between Deviled and Jim, there would not be issues, but others would wag their tongues.
I was thinking of the A&P grocery stores, but once you have A&B, why not throw in CD. It reminds me of an old general store in the backwoods of the south, near a big lake, Bubba’s Video Rental and Bait Shop, where you can buy a cup of live worms, a cup of crickets, and rent a movie in case the fish don’t bite. My, how times have changed.
The idea of the corner of Washington and Jefferson has two roots. In Gary, Indiana, Washington and Jefferson run parallel, with Adams in between. There is no corner of Washington and Jefferson. The other root is that we live near Washington, PA, known locally as little Washington, and the home of Washington and Jefferson College.
The idea of not trusting people who part their hair in the middle came from a prejudice, or erroneous profiling, from forty years ago. It was assumed that a person who did that was on drugs. It could be 99 out of one hundred ‘suspects’ did not follow the profile, but once you found one who did, the prejudice stuck. In many ways, that’s the way it works with a lot of prejudice.
One of the last projects that I worked on before retiring was at a paper mill. I think the two types of paper towels that they made there got along. My wife has asked me to add the following disclaimer, maybe for all future Deviled Yeggs stories.
NOTE: No fictional characters have been harmed in the making of this short story.