I’m Detective Sgt. Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. My partner is Jim Wednesday.
I knew it would be a bad day when the Captain was standing at my desk when I came in. I was there early; he was there earlier.
The Captain said, “There has been a personnel move. You have a new guy to train in homicide, one junior detective Poached Yeggs. You may have heard of him. I already broke the news to Poached. The first thing you are going to have to teach him is that you are Detective Sgt. Yeggs, not Uncle Deviled. Got it?”
“No, I don’t got it! Why do you hate me so much?”
“This has nothing to do with you and me, but Poached has been the one discovering bodies lately. Either that or he is the first officer on the scene. The Commissioner has been getting letters that no one wants Poached on their beat. He’s a dead body magnet. I don’t like getting letters, so you get Poached. At least, when Poached shows up to find a dead body, it’s his job to be there.”
“What’s this junior detective thing?”
“Poached hasn’t been on the force long enough to get promoted, so we invented a new detective grade, no additional pay, so that he can help you and Wednesday, but he won’t get paid a penny more than the guys that have earned the right to a detective badge and are in the wings waiting for an opening. No more questions. Poached will call later to tell you when his first day will be. As soon as he clears medical. He’s at the clinic now.”
With that the Captain left and Jim Wednesday walked in. Jim asked, “In what way did you get into trouble this time?”
“I did nothing; we did nothing, it’s Poached. Half the city thinks he’s a dead body magnet, so we just inherited him.”
“He is a dead body magnet, but why us? Vice is looking for guys like Poached.”
Before I could give the Captain’s answer, my cell phone rang. It was Glyce. If you haven’t been keeping up, Glyce, my wife, is short for nitroglycerin, a nickname, because of her explosive emotions. Glyce calmly said, calmly for her, “Our son is missing! Find him, Detective!”
Jim, from across the room, getting his first cup of coffee, asked, “Your son is missing?”
The Captain opened the door to his walled office. “I heard. No Easter Yegg hunts while on duty. Look on your own time. You have to close the Dr. Pepper case. Like, yesterday!”
I swear. The cell phone was not on speaker. Glyce was just that loud. She can control her emotions, but under the circumstances…
Oh, the crack about no Easter Yegg hunts shows you the nasty relationship that I have with the Captain, but he is referring to my son’s name, Easter Yeggs. Glyce insisted that this insane naming of family members after ways to prepare eggs had to stop. Our children would have normal names. Then, our son was born on Easter Sunday, and she couldn’t resist.
Jim asked, “Deviled, your son was born on Easter, but his birthday has never been on Easter. How come?”
“Jim, Easter is based on a date in the Jewish calendar, which is a lunar calendar. Glyce and I have to answer that question every year. It’s going to be some time before the dates are the same again.”
The office phone rang. I answered. It was Poached. He was going to be back to work on Wednesday after recovering from the flu. And he had news that he wanted Jim and I both to hear. I put him on speaker.
“Uncle Deviled, I was put in the same examining room where I found Dr. Pepper, when she was flat as a pancake. Oh, sorry, where I found the deceased. While I waited for the new doctor to show up, I decided to practice my detecting skills. I found something that the crime scene guys missed. The floor in the room is porous. If something spills, it soaks into the floor.”
I interrupted his narrative, “But wouldn’t that make it impossible to clean and disinfect?”
“You would think, and in actual practice, it kinda does. But they had their floor installed by Dr. Proctor, the Rug Doctor and Floor Doctor. He had a wild idea of making the floor out of this porous material. Then he hooked up a vacuum system below the floor that, he thought, drew the germs and stuff into HEPA filters to trap all the nasties.”
Jim asked, “Ain’t that HIPA? Some kind of water horse?”
Poached replied, “No, a water horse, or river horse, is a hippo, short for hippopotamus. HIPA is short for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability. I’m talking HEPA, short for high-efficiency particulate air. By the way, Jim, do you know why one hippopotami cannot get on a bus?”
Jim asked, “Not a clue, but wouldn’t a HEPA filter get hepa-titis or something?”
I had to interrupt again, “You two, cut it out. I know why all those things are short for something – you two, short on brains. Your joking around is killing me here.”
Poached continued, “No, Deviled, I mean, Detective Sgt. Yeggs, Jim is onto something. Dr. Proctor, who is not a doctor by the way, did the work for a minimal fee – lost a bundle on the job. He was dating Dr. Pepper at the time that they built the new clinic. He talked the good doctors into letting him do this floor filtering system at below cost in return for advertising his invention. Two problems: Dr. Pepper found out that Dr. Proctor was cheating on her, and the filtration system didn’t work. It made it impossible to clean the floor, just like you suggested. Then, the mopping of the floor got the HEPA filters wet, even though Dr. Proctor had accounted for that. It was a screw up in design. Remember the ‘A’ of HEPA is ‘Air.’ HEPA filters don’t like mop water. So, Dr. Proctor lost his main squeeze and the millions of dollars he hoped to get by the doctor testimonials when he started to market his invention.”
I swallowed hard before speaking. This was going to hurt to say this. “Nice work, Poached. That gives us a suspect and motive, but it doesn’t explain how he killed Dr. Pepper. How does that take all the fizz out of her and make her go flat?”
Poached laughed, “That’s all taken care of, too. The vacuum system has variable speeds. Usually it is on a slow speed to gently draw the air in the room toward the floor and the filters, but it can get really sucky in the room at high speed. “Sucky” doesn’t sound right, but you get what I mean.”
Jim asked, “So?”
Poached continued, “Well, you know how Achilles had that weakness in his ankle and Samson was supposed to not get a haircut? Well, I found out from the other doctors this morning that Dr. Pepper’s feet are porous, her weak spot. But as long as she wore sturdy shoes, the fizz inside her stayed bottled up, so to speak.”
I interrupted again, “But she was wearing some soft slippers that day. Why didn’t the good doctors say anything about the floor when we questioned them? They talked about the slippers though. Nobody seemed to know why she wore slippers. It was very unprofessional, only time she’d ever worn anything like that.”
Jim commented, “But her new boyfriend said they had done a lot of hiking over the weekend. Remember, she died on a Monday. Maybe her feet were swollen. Since she was deflated, as Poached says as flat as a pancake, we couldn’t tell if her feet had been swollen, but they were discolored. Maybe she wore her house slippers because of that. We might never know why, but how does a slip up of wearing slippers slide her into eternity?”
Poached jumped in, “But guys! Regardless of why she wore the slippers, Dr. Pepper and her next-door neighbor had complained about Dr. Proctor stalking her. He would have seen the slippers and knew it was his chance at revenge. He follows her to work and remotely increases the suction speed on the system when she is standing at her computer. All these environmental systems have a remote feature these days. Their system at the clinic can be controlled, room by room. No one other than Dr. Pepper would ever notice.”
“Nice job, Poached. We’ll see you Wednesday. Wednesday and I have to go follow up on the leads you gave us.”
Jim whispered, “But, Deviled, Poached has the whole thing wrapped up. What leads are we going to follow?”
I answered, softly, “Jim, we only have to bring Dr. Proctor, who ain’t a doctor, in to grill him. He’ll crack. The leads that we are following is hunting for Easter Yeggs, but the Captain doesn’t need to know that. He wants us to close the Dr. Pepper case and that is what we are doing. Got it?”
Jim nodded, “By the way, how old is Easter these days?”
“He’s fifteen, but he has a bad case of the terrible toos, really bad.”
“How can he be fifteen and two at the same time?”
“Jim, he sleeps too late and misses the bus to school. He gets to practice too late, too many times, and they kicked him off the ball team. He moons over his English teacher too much and he nearly flunks English. He eats too much junk food over the weekend, and he gets a belly ache. Should I go on?”
“Sounds like a typical teen-ager.”
We found Easter Yeggs in the tall grass near the high school. He had been lying there, trying to figure out what animal each cloud looked like, and lost track of time. He’d been lying there ever since Glyce had dropped him off at school on her way to work. He had simply been daydreaming too long. When Glyce got a call saying that he never showed up at school, she jumped to an obvious, but wrong, conclusion.
HIPA, HEPA, and hippo were defined, but the reason one hippopotami cannot get on a bus is that one hippopotami is two hippopotamus – roughly the first line of Allan Sherman’s song, One Hippopotami – a song that asks the question about singulars and plurals.
As for the HEPA filtration system, these systems are being used, just not in the floor. A HEPA system can trap most of the germs and particulates in the return duct to the air conditioning system, cutting down on airborne disease transfer. They even have similar systems for home use to reduce allergens. But as the Tracy Homicide Squad discovered, putting the return duct in the floor is not a good idea.
And I mooned over my English teacher in eighth grade, which led to a “D” for a six-week grade, which led to an “or else” discussion with my parents. That led to a challenge. My next six weeks, I did an oral book report on War and Peace by Tolstoy, reading at least five pages to anyone else’s one page. That led to good grades until Psychology – in college, 6-7 years later.
NOTE: There were no fictional characters harmed in the making of this short story.