I’m Detective Sergeant Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. My partner is Jim Wednesday.
We are on a field trip to visit the old man, actually Grandpa Yeggs. Since there will be three of us and two prisoners, the prison decided to have a couple of guards available in the interview room. For safety, my old man and Grandpa were shackled, hands and feet. We were not there to question suspects.
We were there for translation. You see, our third person that we brought with us from Tracy was a hundred-year-old witness to a crime. We needed Grandpa for translation.
After we got done with the greeting process – Jim had to show pictures of his wife and kids, we got down to business.
I started, “Grandpa, Dad, we brought Lionel Hamptonson so that you two could make some sense out of his testimony. You see, Mr. Hamptonson walked into the squad room with an eyewitness account of a crime, but we can’t figure out what he’s been telling us. His manner of speech is not up to date, to say the least. His choice of words seems to be stuck in the forties.”
Millennium Yeggs (Grandpa) responded, “What’s buzzin’, cousin?”
Lionel Hamptonson was wearing a vintage zoot suit that looked like it hadn’t been worn in at least fifty years. His countenance had been somber until Grandpa addressed him. He brightened and replied, “So good to meet someone who speaks plain English. This one here,” pointing in my direction, “is too tense. He snaps a cap too easy. Now that I have someone I can trust, I’ll give you the straight dope.”
I interrupted, “Wait! No passing dope here.”
The Old Man, my Dad, 1000 Year Old Yeggs, rolled his eyes. “Be quiet, son. Let them talk then your Grandpa will translate.”
Lionel continued, “It was last Tuesday. I was going down to see Artie. Man, he can play the clarinet, a real killer diller. It was a gas listening and dancing, you know? I saw this dame there. She was a jive bomber. I asked her if she wanted a cuppa Joe. She agreed as long as they had an armored heifer.”
I muttered, “See? No sense at all.”
Grandpa said, “Hush, Deviled. You may be the best Yeggs in the bunch, but you need me to keep you on the beam.” I scratched my head, thinking Grandpa wasn’t making sense either. Then he turned to Lionel, “Has Artie done any pictures?”
Lionel looked at him with a strange look. “Not that I know.” Lionel got back to his story. “In the coffeehouse, two fellows appeared out of nowhere. They talked to the dame as if they owned her. I had enough lettuce for the Joe, but these two fat heads were busting my chops to pay them for the dancing and the social call was extra. They were trying to bamboozle me with a bunch of floy floy. I was no chicken. I stood up to them, and a rhubarb broke out. A couple of fellows joined in, seeing that I was outnumbered. The next thing I knew, the dame and one of the guys from the bar were laying dead, and the fat head with the chrome dome was holding a knife that was dripping with blood. The guy backed away and ran from the scene.” Lionel leaned back.
Grandpa asked a few questions that made no sense and then leaned over and whispered to my old man. My old man smiled and even laughed a bit.
My old man provided his translation, “It seems Lionel here went to see Artie Shaw. He met a girl who was a really good dancer. He asked her if she wanted a cup of coffee. She wanted her coffee with canned milk. Two thugs, who Lionel called idiots – one being bald, walked up to roust Lionel. Could be that the girl was a girl who got paid for each dance or anything extra. Anyway, a fight broke out and the bald thug must have killed the girl and a man who jumped into the fight to help.”
I was thinking that the description didn’t match any of our present cases, but I had to ask. “Can Lionel give me a description of the bald-headed thug? Maybe point him out in a line up?”
The old man laughed, “Son, you crack me up. Lionel may seem lucid, but his brain is stuck in the late thirties. Artie Shaw died in 2004, but he quit the full-time big band tour scene in 1939 to start appearing in motion pictures. Lionel here witnessed a double homicide, or however you want to classify it, during Artie’s concert in Tracy, probably in the late 30s. As for making an arrest, folks stood around your perp a long time ago saying, ‘Mm, mm, don’t he look natural.’ Face it, Deviled. Lionel’s an old geezer who thinks he’s still twenty years old.”
“So this is just a really cold, cold case?”
“Yep, but think of it this way. You can close two old cases and help the victims’ great-great-grandchildren find some closure.”
As Grandpa and Dad got up to leave, they politely handed the unlocked shackles to the guards. No one saw them remove their restraints. It was if they had not been shackled at all. Neither one had lost their touch, one of the reasons they were still in the pokey.
We have recently been on a ‘vacation.’ We drove from Pennsylvania to Minnesota (a wedding) to Tennessee (2 birthdays) and then back home. We rented a car that had a 40s music channel on the radio. I love big band and swing music.
Of course, Lionel Hamptonson is my fictional ‘son’ of Lionel Hampton, but he played with Benny Goodman. I don’t think he ever played with Artie Shaw.
Some of the 40s idioms come from yourdictionary.com.