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, is not in the office. Then again, Jim is out on an errand.
Forget the pretenses. I was working in the office, late on a Saturday afternoon, awaiting a delivery, and at that moment I heard footsteps and giggling coming from the stairwell. I think I also heard a heavy sigh.
The door burst open and my son, Easter, and his girlfriend, Jemima, burst into the room, followed by Officer Jayne Crane. I will record our conversation in dialogue form: “D” for me and “J” for Jayne.
J: I am delivering the two delinquents into your custody, Yeggs. Sign the form.
D: They are not delinquents.
J: They were remanded to my care. They are delinquents. Sign the form.
D: They kissed each other on the lips at the mall, and they are working community service as a result. If it were not for our idiot mayor finding a 200-year-old law against public displays of affection and applying it to the COVID restrictions, these two kids would be home playing video games.
J: I do not adjudicate the sentence. I just ensure they do an honest day’s work. If I get them, they are delinquents. Sign the form.
D: But they are not delinquents. They are two young teen-agers, in lo-o-o-o-ve.
J: It says they are delinquents right there on the form.
D: But you were the one who created the stupid form so that we could get together for eight Saturdays and have this conversation.
J: Just SIGN THE FORM!! I can’t go home until my paperwork is completed, and I am sure that you have better things to do! YEGGS!!
D: Officer Crane, that is Detective Sgt. Yeggs. (I signed her silly form.)
J: Thank you, SERGEANT. Good day.
As Jayne took the form, wheeled toward the stairwell, and left the room, Jim walked in.
Jim asked, “What is Plain Jayne Crane, the master of Pain, doing in the squad room?”
I nodded toward the two teen-agers who were socially distanced from each other. “She delivered the two delinq…” I cleared my throat. “The two misfortunate teen-agers who are doing hard time because they kissed in public.”
Jim laughed, “What kind of hard time did they do today?”
Easter mumbled, “We picked up trash along the highway.”
Jemima giggled, “I picked up trash along the highway, and you stared out into space.”
“Dad always said that Manual Labor was the governor of New Mexico,” Easter replied.
I added, “And if you do not pull your weight, Easter, you will find out why they call her Plain Jayne Crane, the master of Pain. You better be working when she is watching you, or she might apply an attitude adjustment.”
Jemima laughed, “Oh, she already let him know what she thought of him. I think she could make a Marine drill sergeant cry.”
I thought of my Marine friends and thought they would disagree, as their drill sergeants never cried, but I let it go. I had seen Plain Jayne Crane at work. She had made hardened criminals cry.
While I was remembering such hard times, hard times to watch, not to mention living through, the door to the stairwell burst open and Captain Al Hart entered. He yelled, “Great! I heard you two screw ups were here. You two need to go to Fruit Salad Alley. NOW!!”
“I have to take these two delinquents, I mean, these two children home. Will you sit with them until my wife can come get them?”
“Yeggs!! You have just confirmed what I have said for years. You are an idiot!! ME!!?!! Watching kids?!?!? Come on!!!! When I said ‘NOW,’ I meant ‘Yesterday!’ Your nephew has regained his magnetism. Three dead bodies in Fruit Salad Alley. GO!!!”
Jemima asked, “Magnetism? What is that all about?”
Easter mumbled, “My cousin, Poached, is a dead body magnet. He seems to attract them like ripe fruit attracts flies.”
And Al Hart added, “And something Poached said. We might have a gang war on our hands. Get the scene secure and keep a lid on everything until we know what we’ve got. No comments to the media.”
We put the teen-agers in the back seat of the car. Jim drove while I called Glyce to have her meet us at Fruit Salad Alley and pick up the delinquents there. Rats. I used the wrong word again. Jayne Crane has a corruptive influence on everyone. I gave the two in the back seat strict instructions to not leave the vehicle. Odd that I would tell them that. You can only open the back doors from the outside.
Jim decided he needed to catch up on the day that the kids had. As usual, Easter stayed rather quite.
Jemima was more forthcoming, “That old rotten mayor might call a simple kiss a bad thing, but this COVID thing is bad too. Easter and I met each other online, but we need face time. We should be going to the same church. We should be going to the same school. And then for punishment for having kissed, the mayor punishes us with eight straight Saturdays of being together. It is like going on a date. Sure, we have to work, but we are getting to know each other. I have learned Easter is lazy, but he never backed down when Plain Jayne Crane yelled at him. There is something special about Easter, and I want to know more. And, I have seven more Saturdays in which to explore him – socially distanced, of course.”
I added, “And I worked this line of punishment out, off the books, so that there would not even be a sealed juvenile record that could be later opened with a court order. There was to be no paper record at all, but then Officer Crane created a form, just to track what these two love birds are doing. I know how it is going to work. These eight delinquent forms are supposed to be shredded once the work is completed, but Officer Crane will make copies and distribute them instead. I hate to think about it, but we may need Grandpa to have some fun with Officer Crane’s files. And, Easter, you never heard me say that.”
Easter asked, “What?”
I replied, “Exactly!”
At that point, we arrived at the scene. Poached greeted us and looked puzzled at the kids in the backseat. I told him it was a long story.
“Before we get started and I take you to the body dump, I just went to this specialty story to get some balsamic vinegar, with a lavender flavor,” Poached plead. “Please, I was not out here looking for trouble.”
I interrupted, “Just give us the report. We were starting to think you had lost that special ability to find dead bodies. Now, we know you haven’t lost the knack for it. Spill!”
Poached nodded, “Okay, I left the spice shop and instead of making the block back to where I had parked, I cut through Fruit Salad Alley. I smelled something strange and looked behind the dumpster. I found three members of the Rotten Apple Gang, two male and one female. All three were killed and preserved.”
Jim asked, “Killed and preserved?”
Poached said, “I guess you could call it that. They were coated with vinegar. The initial thought on a cause of death is asphyxiation due to too much vinegar. We’ll know more after the autopsy. As for the preservation, the medical examiner said something about apples not browning when coated with a little vinegar. Time of death might get thrown off due to the ‘preservation.’”
I wondered if it really mattered how much vinegar was being used, when you are starting out with rotten apples, how can you ever measure time of death when they have been rotting for years?
Poached added, “Oh, the three deceased are Winesap, Spartan, and Opal. All of them were mid-managers in the Rotten Apple Gang. They work the western side of Tracy, near the suburbs. Opal, the female, was smaller than the other two, but they say she was more ruthless than the other two put together.”
Jim asked, “What makes the captain think this is a gang war?”
Poached shrugged, “I have no idea. The captain said nothing to me. I told the captain that the vinegar used was not apple cider vinegar. It was red wine vinegar. I got a nose for vinegar, but the crime scene guys will confirm it. Does it matter what kind of vinegar is used?”
Jim and I looked at each other. I nodded for Jim to explain it, since some of our information had come from Jim’s wife, Tuesday Wednesday, who still works in Stout county. “Poached, there was a gang war back about the time you were born, maybe when you were in elementary school, in that timeframe and it lasted quite a while. The Rotten Apples had a strangle hold in Tracy, but the Leafy Greens had moved in from Stout county into the suburbs, trying to chase the available cash. Stout county is not only less populated, but there is also a lot less cash flow there compared to the big city of Tracy. After a lot of middle people on both sides were eliminated, the Leafy Greens made an agreement to not come any further than the suburbs. You just said that the people running the rackets in the area next to the suburbs have just been killed. And the Leafy Greens had a calling card, soaking their victims in red wine vinegar. Poetic thing that the old man Leafy Greens dreamed up, Turnip himself.”
I added, “This might be the Leafy Greens deciding to move into the Rotten Apple’s territory, maybe sensing that Fuji Apple is not a strong enough leader and Paula Red is really running things anyway. What I am trying to say is that they may think there is a weakness in the Rotten Apple power structure, and they might want to take over.”
Poached turned a little more white than usual. “That doesn’t sound good. We might be getting busy.”
Jim and I added, “And we don’t want to be standing in the way of the next bottle of red wine vinegar either.”
Poached then escorted us to where the bodies were being photographed. We tried to take in all the details of the scene. Poached had mentioned “body dump.” I hate when investigators start off with assumptions, but I think he might be right. Killed somewhere else, dumped here, near a store that sells a lot of vinegar. I heard someone walk up behind us.
Jemima said, “I think I’m going to be sick.”
I turned and yelled, “Not in an active crime scene. Run back to the car.”
She ran and I followed. She was fine once she got into clean air. “How can you stand being around that every day?”
I explained, “Oh, when you have been around enough dead bodies, you get numbed a bit.”
She looked at me, a bit confused, “No, that strong red wine vinegar smell. I think I am allergic to it.”
“I thought I told you to stay in the car…”
“Oh, you did, but I am a PK. That’s preacher’s kid, not policeman’s kid, although I think that is one of the things Easter and I talk about the most. You know, all these rules and how you must be perfect when you are around other people. As your younger ones get older, you may find more rebellion in them. Easter is kind of quiet. PK people have to cut loose when they can.”
“You don’t ‘have to’, but I’ll let that go. How did you get out of the back seat? There is no door handle on the inside.”
Jemima beamed. “I have skills.”
“No, no, no. You have not been taking lessons from my Grandpa have you?”
“Please, not from my Old Man?”
“Detective Sgt. Yeggs, your family does not have a monopoly on those kinds of skills. And you may do quite well to teach Easter.”
“Nope, young lady, it has been a Yeggs tradition for a few hundred years to teach the children lock picking, safe cracking, and such, but I want the name of Yeggs to just be a name.”
Jemima smiled again, “I can respect that. I think we need to get back to Easter. He got really nervous when I escaped. He refused to follow me. He must be afraid of you.”
“No, he is afraid of his mother. His mother’s initials were TNT before we got married, but she was called nitroglycerin growing up, easily exploding at the slightest shake. We shortened it to Glyce. She is very volatile, but once the debris settles back to the ground, she can be equally loving. The one emotion that she does not do very well with is ‘calm.’”
Jemima giggled, “I’ve heard. I hope all the restrictions get lifted so that I can meet your family.”
“You are about to meet Glyce, and the other kids now. I see that she is just pulling up. You need to put a mask on though.”
In a pained voice, “Yes, Sir.”
You might think that I was thinking of the Wiggles when I selected the crime scene at Fruit Salad Alley.
But maybe, with three dead bodies in the alley and two teen-agers that were working on a chain gang, of sorts, it sounds more like Polk Salad Annie. And I grew up with pokeweeds, or poke sallet, all over the place. When picked in the early spring, as the first chutes emerging from the ground, they are edible only if cooked properly (boiled and drained three times just for starters). In all other cases, they are poisonous. So, Polk Salad Annie was really hungry to go after poke sallet.
It is said that apple cider vinegar and water (about one tablespoon to one cup of water) can be used to keep apple slices, and some other similar fruits, from browning. Soak for five minutes, drain, and then seal in an airtight container.
Winesap and Spartan Apples are medium sized, but the Opal is a smaller variety.
We have just introduced the Leafy Green Gang. I really have no idea where that is going to take us. Deviled has a triple homicide as a cliffhanger, but was it the Leafy Green Gang or someone who might gain from a gang war?
And as for the Yeggs teaching the next generation safe cracking skills for hundreds of years, safes have been around for over 600 years. I am sure safe crackers, or Yeggs, have been around just as long.