I’m Detective Sgt. Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. My partner is Jim Wednesday. Poached Yeggs, Junior Detective and my nephew, continues to assist us, but from home for the time being.
We finally had a homicide case. A beautiful young lady’s life was cut short in a strange way. Her life force was drained by a juicer. I would let our science guys explain it, but I will let you know that it looked worse than it really was. She’d been conked on the head and was probably unconscious at the time, hopefully not feeling a thing. It reminded me of when Dr. Pepper’s life was cut short in “When It Goes Flat.” This victim wasn’t flat, but she was juiced dry, like a prune.
We didn’t have to look far to find a suspect. Jim was hoping that we could stretch the case out for a while. When everyone was locked down, crime was less. There were domestic disturbances, but no one had offed anybody, But, no, as soon as we got the fingerprints back from the juicer, it pointed to one of our own, Dob Mupp, an undercover cop in organized crime. We arrested him, and I had first crack at him in the interview room. We weren’t ready to sweat him, but maybe if it was just a couple of cops shooting the breeze, I might get him to make a mistake.
“So, your given name is ‘Dob Mupp?’ What kind of a name is that?”
Dob said, “It’s a spoonerism. My mother loved spoonerisms. Deviled, you don’t have a monopoly on a family of strange names. My Ma named me as a spoonerism for ‘mobbed up.’ Reverse the starting letters. It becomes Mob Dupp. When you say it out loud, and run it together as most folks do? … Mobbed Up. My older sister is the bride of a millionaire. Her maiden name is Darry Mupp. My younger sister had twins in her junior year of high school. My Ma said that if we were Nupps instead of Mupps, she’d have been named Dock Nupp, but she settled on Dess Mupp. My Dad is on the city council and every time money is missing and unaccounted for, they investigate my Dad, Dicks Mupp. It seems my Ma and Grandma were prophetic in naming their children.”
“Are you even speaking English? What are you talking about?”
“Spoonerisms! It’s when your tang gets tungled and the ‘Sill-lab-bulls’ get rearranged. Like when the live radio feed introduced President Hoobert Heever, instead of Herbert Hoover. We won’t mention the radio announcer on a live feed from Texas City, Texas. He did fine until he tried to say the town from where he was reporting. I think that’s why they have the five-second delay on live broadcasts these days. But not all Spoonersims are accidental. Abraham Lincoln once wrote in a letter ‘He said he was riding bass-ackwards on a jass-ack through a patton-crotch.’ George Carlin would quip ‘Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.’ And we all know the Archie Campbell story about Rindercella. I bet you know the punch line.”
“What? ‘If you go to a bancy fall, and you want a prandsome hince to loll in fuv with you, don’t forget to slop your dripper?’ Is that it?”
“You got it.”
“But, why call it a Spoonerism?”
“That dates back to 1879. Lincoln predated Rev. William Archibald Spooner, so the mistake in public speaking is ages old, but not named after anyone until the dear Reverend perfected it. Rev. Spooner would often get tang tungled, but when he, as the Warden of Old College, Oxford, introduced a hymn as “Kinkering Kongs Their Titles Take,” instead of Conquering Kings, people started making up ‘Spoonerisms’ and attributing them to the poor Reverend, like referring to Queen Victoria as the ‘Queer old dean’ or asking ‘was the bean dizzy?’ Stuff like that. College kids having fun at the Warden’s expense”
I wiped the Brett from my sow, or is that swow? My mind wandered. Would a sow be upset if you wiped the Brett from her? But then my mind went back into focus, like a teal strap. “Okay, now that I understand your name. I assume, then being mobbed up, that you volunteered for organized crime?”
“No, I was transferred from Fraud. I think my boss had a sense of humor, too. I was happy at my computer following the money trail and locking up criminals who would never touch a weapon. I went straight from white collar crime with no violence into the underbelly of the Rotten Apple Gang. When their butler was killed by the Pears, when they bumped off Gala Apple, they needed a new butler at the Orchard. Since I have a reputation of being prim and proper, they thought I could pull it off. I got the job of Fuji Apple’s butler. I was gaining his confidence, but what he seemed to be doing was to take the Rotten Apple money and turning it into legitimate business investments. That is until the Femme Fatale showed up. She said that was her name, ‘Femme Fatale,’ when she started working there as the maid. I figured that Fuji had a sense of humor to hire her with a name like that, but Paula Red said that he had interests in Ms. Fatale that went beyond her ability to make hospital corners, maybe some skills between the sheets.”
I interjected, “Fuji was cheating on his wife, Ginger Gold? That must have caused some stress in the household.”
“Ginger Gold is kind of vacant between the ears. You know the kind. I’m not calling her an air head, but if you go interview her as part of your investigation, bring a tire gage along. But Paula Red, Fuji’s sister, she was telling me all the house gossip. She never caught them in the act, but there were odd situations on occasion. Since the previous butler and maid were husband and wife, we were sharing the servant’s quarters. Paula Red wanted me to try to get Femme Fatale into my confidence.”
“So, you were working undercover, investigating the Apples, and one of the Apples hired you to investigate the new maid. So, was she any good between the sheets?” I asked.
Dob Mupp turned red. His breathing changed. He was thinking about whether he should tell the truth or tell a tall tale. I waited.
“Okay, I screwed up. Maybe my name should be Due Scrup, but I am not married. I wasn’t cheating, and Femme Fatale was single. We had converted the den into a bedroom for me. She had the original bedroom, but everything else was common area, and we couldn’t avoid each other in delicate situations. As I started trying to get to know more about her, we became intimate.”
“That might have caused a stir in the household,” I said with a smile.
“I think the Apples almost wanted us to become intimate. That way, we would never wish to leave their employ, but Femme and I screwed up even worse.”
I waited. It took him a while.
“When we went to the market for supplies, we were away from prying eyes, away from bugged bedrooms, she told me that I should leave the Apple home and not come back. She told me that she was from a federal agency. She was there under deep cover. I confessed that I was there from the city’s police force. I couldn’t leave. We thought we could work together, but then, Ginger Gold Apple went on a European vacation alone. Fuji Apple started making open advances toward Femme. Not hiding that he was interested.”
I interrupted, “And to quote one of the movies that gave me the idea of becoming a detective, A Shot in the Dark. As inspector Clouseau would say, ‘And I submit, [Dob Mupp], that you arrived home, found Miguel with Maria Gambrelli, and killed him in a rit of fealous jage!’ Or ‘her’ as the case may be.”
“I always loved that spoonerism…” It took a while for my accusation to register. He blinked a couple of times. “Hey, wait. You’ve got this all wrong. I loved her. I wasn’t jealous. I had no fealous jage! No, no… No! She told me that she wasn’t having an affair with Fuji. He was just handsy. He grabbed anything and everything, but she never gave him cause to go further. She thought that he felt like he owned the merchandise and that grabbing her was a show of his unlimited power. With Ginger Gold gone, he was more persistent, chasing her around the house at times. Femme wanted him to be comfortable around her, but not go that far. And by the way, her real name was Cara. She was due to report to her bosses in a day or two. If you call them and say that she’s deceased, they will swoop in and take over your case. So, you could save yourself the trouble by telling them that Cara has been killed. Her full name was Cara Cara Orange. She said that her father thought she was so sweet and nice, she had to be named twice.” Dob had a tear roll down his cheek and a catch in his throat. “My money is on Paula Red. She started the rumor about the affair between the one she knew as Femme and Fuji. She sees Ginger Gold as being too weak, so she interjects herself into her brother’s decision making. I think the criminal activities come through her, and Fuji just launders the money and acts like the boss.”
I held up a hand. “But why implicate Paula Red Apple? The juicer, the murder weapon, was recently cleaned. There was only one set of fingerprints, yours. None of the prints were smudged. If someone else had used it with gloves, there would have been smudges. We’ve got you dead to rights.”
The knowledge of this shocked Dob. He sat without saying anything for more than a minute. I waited. Then, Dob said, “The last time that I used the juicer was the day before. I made some carrot juice. The power went out, so I grabbed what juice I had and went about my duties. It’s an old-style juicer. There’s no need to turn it on if the on/off switch is already turned. Most modern on/off buttons default to off when they lose power. I forgot and left the switch on. … Dust the breaker switches.” His brain was in full gear now. “If there had not been a power outage… If they had thrown the main breaker, I would have assumed the power was out. When that happens, I get busy. Fuji goes into a lather if he can’t watch TV or use the internet. I never flipped the switch off. They must have pulled the plug after I was out of the room and then they went back to the main breaker. The power wasn’t out for more than twenty minutes. All they had to do then was grab Cara Cara, plug in the juicer, and then the deed would be done, without touching any of the juicer settings or switches.”
It sounded reasonable. We would hold him in a cell. If he was being framed, it was a good way to eliminate both of them. We could leave Dob in lock up either as a murderer or for his own protection. We’d have time to check some breaker switches for prints.
Then Dob Mupp gasped. “I just remembered something that Paula Red said yesterday while we were waiting for the crime scene people to arrive. She pointed to a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. There were apples, oranges, and pears in the bowl. Fuji loves fresh fruit. He especially likes chomping on Gala Apples. Since he took over the Rotten Apple Gang after she was killed, I thought that was rather sick, but… No, what Paula Red said, when she pointed to the bowl, ‘If you were a good butler, you would know to never mix apples and oranges.’ His lower lip started quivering, “Do you think Cara’s cover was blown?”
All I said as a reply was, “And maybe yours, too. When two people are in love, they might say the thong ring at the tong rhyme.”
When Jim called his friend at the FBI, they never confirmed that Cara Cara Orange was undercover at the Rotten Apple mansion, known as the Orchard, but they took over the case immediately, and Dob Mupp’s story started to ring true as they let us know enough for us to be valuable lackies for their investigation. Our crime scene guys found no prints on the circuit breakers. Who cleans prints from circuit breakers unless they have something to hide, but the Feds released Dob Mupp. From what they were able to determine from electronic data gathering, the covers of the two lovebirds had indeed been blown. There was just no way to pin it on Fuji or Paula Red. The only one in the clear was Ginger Gold, having been out of the country during a pandemic lockdown with all the borders on both ends closed. Rich people can do anything. I interviewed her. Mupp was right, but I had forgotten to bring a tire gage to the interview. It didn’t go well.
A few days after the Feds took their files away and said Good-bye, Jim said, “You know, Deviled, when the new crooks that are in charge of the Rotten Apples get the taste for blood, we end up getting busier.”
I found the spoonerisms that Dob Mupp mentions, to explain what a Spoonerism is, in a mental floss article, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/24330/quick-10-10-spoonerisms-and-other-twists-tongue . The Texas City one is rather infamous, and I remember it from my youth – naturally. I used Wikipedia to get info on Rev. Spooner’s infamous spoonerism that Rev. Spooner admitted to having said, starting all the madness.
What produced the idea was that we bought some Cara Cara Oranges for our journey home. My wife then bought some Gala Apples. As I put the fruit into our fruit container on the kitchen table, I thought of the old phrase of not mixing apples and oranges, which led to thinking about the late Gala Apple, then I just had to connect the dots. And please tell me you were thinking the same thing when you discovered that Femme Fatale was really an undercover Orange investigating the Rotten Apple Gang. I delayed that detail as long as I could.