Out of the Mouth of Babes – A Deviled Yeggs Mystery

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 filling in for Jim, who is finally on paternity leave.  It seemed way too long, but Tuesday has delivered a new baby boy, Holiday Wednesday.

We were back in the office on Saturday, trying to look busy, waiting on the two delinquent teen-agers to finish their next installment of “chain-gang duty.”  I know, they are not delinquents, but Plain Jayne Crane wears you down.  For those that missed the latest updates, Easter Yeggs, my eldest, kissed his girlfriend, Jemima, the new pastor’s kid, at the mall while social distancing rules were in effect.  Thus, they have been labeled delinquents by the keeper of the jail and supervisor of the chain gang, Officer Plain Jayne Crane, the master of Pain.  They had a break during the Easter holidays, so they still have a few weeks left on their community service.

The door to the stairwell swung open, and I heard a familiar question of late, “What’s the situation on the gang war, Detective Yeggs?”  But it wasn’t the same voice.

While I signed Plain Jayne Crane’s silly form, I replied, “I get enough of that out of the Captain, Jemima, and I do not report to you.  And what’s it to you anyway?”

Jemima puffed out her chest to appear to be bigger and more of an ‘authority’ and she said, “I have decided that I am finished with my rebellion as a preacher’s kid.  No more PK for me.  I am going to become a police captain and give you detectives a hard time instead.  I have seen Captain Hart at work.  I admire that.  He has power.  He has strength.”

“And he has a rotten disposition and a bad case of indigestion,” Poached suggested.

I added, “And before you can be a police captain, you have to finish high school and most likely college.  Then you have to work your way up the chain of command.  You might even have to prove that you can do detective work.  Since you think that detective work is so easy, what are your thoughts on our triple homicide?”

Jemima still puffed out her chest again, trying to look down at me, and nearly tripping while on her tiptoes.  I tried not to laugh.  I was sitting down, and she was having a hard time looking the role of the captain.  She cleared her throat.  “I think you have been spending a month looking in the wrong direction.  There were two triple homicides.  The one in Tracy removed the western suburb mob leaders from the Rotten Apple Gang, Winesap, Spartan, and Opal Apple.  Then two days later, Chard, Collard, and Watercress were found swimming with the fishes over in Stout County.  That removed the leadership of the eastern Stout County syndicate, the Leafy Greens.  You, Jim, and Poached have been chasing a possible gang war, but no one else has been bumped off.  So, have you looked at any other angle?”

Poached smirked, “We are looking at all kinds of angles, young lady.  We don’t need your help.”

I smiled, “But, Poached, if Jemima has a new idea, it might be like hitting a reset button.  Because we haven’t gotten anything new in a while, and now that Detective Wolfe’s field detective is out of commission, if he had anything, we’d never know about it.  This might be entertaining.  So, Jemima, dazzle us with your brilliance.”  I didn’t mention that Detective Wolfe only detects from his office and Tuesday Wednesday is left to do all the leg work.  She is now on maternity leave, and Detective Wolfe thinks he might get a deadly disease if he talked to us over the phone.  And besides, Scrambled Yeggs, my brother, has not heard a chirp out of the Rotten Apple Gang.  Mashie Niblick says that the Apples that are members of the Hoity Toity Golf and Monopoly Club have been conspicuously absent from club meetings.  And Tuesday’s informants in Stout County have had the same response from the Leafy Greens.  If Jemima had a fresh idea, I was all for it.

Since she had our undivided attention, she relaxed a little.  “I have done some of my own detecting.”  I cringed.  All we needed was a Nancy Drew that might get into a tight spot that she could not get out of.  She continued, “Daddy and I went out to the County Line Barbeque last night.  He felt bad that I had all this community service to do, and he and I had a little date.  Just the two of us.”

Poached shifted in his chair at hearing about the Barbeque joint.  County Line Road was considered no-man’s-land between the Apples and the Greens.  The barbeque joint was the standard location for the two gangs to have a parlay – if there was trouble.

It seemed Jemima got a little more confident as she noticed Poached changing his body language.  “While we were eating our ribs, three men came in and sat at a corner booth.  One was an Apple, and another was a Green.  The third one was simply huge, not that I had ever seen an apple that big, but the third guy was a mountain compared to the largest apple I have ever seen.”

Poached interrupted, “Big as in fat?”

Jemima chuckled and shook her head.  “No.  This guy had no fat at all.  He was all muscle.  He had muscles in places I didn’t know muscles could be.”

I asked, “Were they just dining together?”

Again, Jemima shook her head.  “No.  They ordered drinks and told the waiter to get lost.  Mostly, the huge guy was barking orders at the other two.  All that I could hear the other two saying was ‘won’t happen again.’  The big guy finally said something when there wasn’t very much background noise.  He said ‘A little skirmish is not a war and we need war.’  That’s when I made the connection.  You are looking for a connection that points to the Apples and the Greens at war with each other, but neither one wants the war.  This big guy does, and he has a member of each gang as his accomplices.  So, you go make your arrests.  Your case is solved.”

I muttered, “Out of the mouths of babes…”

At that, Poached laughed, “Great story, but that solves nothing.  It gives us a pain in the back side to deal with, but nothing is solved.”

Jemima stood, arms akimbo.  She was ready to tell Poached what he could do with his remark, but I interrupted.

“Jemima, let me set up a few pictures for you to look through and you can point out who it was that you saw.  Your observations might be very helpful in this investigation, but all we know is that a large muscular man wanted war.  That could be a football coach getting carried away.”

“He wasn’t a football coach, and he meant real war, not a game!”

I raised my hands in surrender to calm her down.  “I know, but I also know what a jury will say if this is all that we have.”

As Jemima checked out the photographs, Easter picked up a broom and started sweeping the squad room.  Poached and I looked at each other to feel for cracks forming in the earth’s crust.  I wondered if Jayne Crane had made a difference in his life.

Poached asked, “What do you think this little parlay means?”

I replied, “It may be the third party that we have been looking for.  The two sides seem reluctant in starting a war.  Everyone is doing their business remotely as much as possible, but if a third party is agitating, we could still get one.  But, if Jemima points out the huge muscular man that I think she will find, we have trouble.”

Poached nodded, “Sounds like Abominable Abdominal himself.  He escaped prison a long time ago, right after we caught him and took him back after his first escape.  When he did not surface locally, I figured that he had moved on.  You know that I tazed him twice for us to get him shackled and into the squad car.  And I heard that the prison beefed up a few cells, just in case we caught him and brought him back to them, again.”

Our worst fears were realized.  Jemima was confident that the three people in the corner booth were Spinach Greens, Peasgood Nonesuch Apple, and Richard LaLanne, aka the Abominable Abdominal with the twelve-pack abs.

Spinach Greens was a major player in the Leafy Greens, but Tuesday said that he had a rift with Turnip, saying Turnip was too old and not as aggressive as he used to be.  Spinach was small in frame but built like Popeye the Sailor.

Peasgood Nonesuch Apple was a huge, muscular fellow that Red Delicious used for muscle.  Peasgood thought he could be a good leader, but Red Delicious never found any leadership qualities in him.  Peasgood was simply muscle and bulk.  This left Peasgood as the odd man out as lieutenants in the Rotten Apple Gang moved to higher positions in the organization.

The two people that LaLanne picked to do his dirty work had motivation against their bosses and ambition to be the boss themselves.  I’m thinking that LaLanne used his old body building routine on the organized crime guys, just like his free workouts to keep the police in shape.  Red Delicious could have gotten involved from the prison side, but we keep changing things on him to keep him from getting a support group that could communicate to Fuji Apple, who is now running things while Red Delicious stews in prison.  Who else could orchestrate the set-up LaLanne would need?  But if a gym was to be set up, Spinach and Peasgood would be ready to work out.  Both were short on brains and long on muscle, and those are the kind of guys LaLanne likes by his side, people he can manipulate.

I took the teens home, waiting for Easter to finish sweeping.  You know, so that he could have that warm feeling of accomplishment.  Poached stayed in the office.  He was presently not dating, but he and Callie Johnson, the doctoral candidate ornithologist, occasionally date when they both have a rare free moment.  I made a few calls after I got home.

It wasn’t as easy as Jemima had thought.  Scrambled asked his friend Baldwin Apple, another large bruiser like Peasgood, if there was a place to get a private workout.  Scrambled complained that he needed to lose a few pounds.  Baldwin hinted as to where there was a private gym out near the county line, but if anyone asked, Scrambled had gotten the information from someone else.  No self-respecting Apple would ever go down County Line Road for anything, even free gym membership.  We needed someone to go inside and confirm it was LaLanne’s gym.  The problem was that LaLanne had run a gym for the Tracy police force and knew all of us, including a certain bounty hunter named Scrambled.

We let one of the confidential informants from Stout County infiltrate the gym.  In the meantime, Poached did a computer search on who owned the gymnasium.  LaLanne had it buried deep from one shell corporation to another, but he had bought many of the properties along County Line Road, including the gymnasium.  It must have been where he hid a lot of the convenience store and liquor store robbery money.

We waited until Spinach and Peasgood came by the gym to do a joint raid with Stout County.  We had so many tasers that Richard LaLanne, the Abominable Abdominal with the twelve pack abs did not wake up until he was back in his cell at the prison, a specially designed cell.

In the end, we had enough evidence on Peasgood for the triple homicide in Stout County and Spinach Greens for the triple homicide in Tracy with Richard LaLanne as the mastermind.  They each thought that LaLanne was going to put them in charge of their organizations, but they would have been his puppets.

That next Saturday when Easter and Jemima had finished their community service, the squad room was filled with a variety of dignitaries.  There was not enough room for social distancing, but everyone wore masks made by a local company to commemorate the event.  Nothing was said on the news as to why they were doing community service.  In fact, the nightly news said something about how they were such good kids, they did it on their own accord.  I have no idea how that got spread.  Plain Jayne Crane came over to me and tore up her form, away from the cameras.  When Jemima came into the room, the cameras started clicking.  The mayor, the one who had orchestrated the arrest of the two lovebirds, had total political amnesia, for the moment, to award Jemima with a special Crime Stoppers award for providing the evidence that led to thwarting a gang war in the city of Tracy and Stout County to the west.

Of course, mayor Beaux Lightly wanted to paint the picture in his speech of how he had activated an old law used in a puritanical time to avoid public displays of affect, thus helping with social distancing.  That caused the two lovebirds to be arrested and required to do community service.  Thus, it was the mayor who had set the gears in motion or Jemima would never have been at the BBQ at just the right time.  Grieves must have threatened him with something.  I think Grieves has so much dirt on the mayor that if he came clean, the mayor would be sharing a cell with Red Delicious, but that’s just a guess.

But with that in mind, it was delightful listening to the mayor give a carefully written speech that said nothing about the mayor and all about a young teen-ager that was so civic minded that she saved the town.  She was awarded a ribbon and medal.  She was given the opportunity of shadowing Captain Al Hart for an entire week.  (I thought that to be cruel and inhumane punishment, not a reward, but she was thrilled.)  And she was told that the community service had just ended, and she would be going on to greater things.

Ending the community service early nearly ruined the carefully written script to avoid announcing why there was community service being done in the first place.  This entire event was a surprise to Jemima and Easter.  She had not rehearsed any response, the one weak link in the plan.  When she heard that the community service was concluded, she was heartbroken.  Those were her socially distanced, municipality mandated, dates with her boyfriend, my son, Easter.  Going back to socially distanced isolation was punishment that she could not abide, but she also knew that I had gone through a lot of favors-owed to get the reason for their community service to be kept a secret.

When allowed to say a few words, she said the usual words of gratitude, but then she added, “But if it is all the same to you, I have three weeks of community service on our schedule and I would like to complete them.  This city needs more people trying to clean it up.”  The crowd erupted with applause while I again muttered “Out of the mouths of babes.”

And quietly in the back of the room, Plain Jayne Crane leaned into me and said that she would be seeing me for another three Saturdays, but I was given a shock equal to the day Easter picked up a broom and swept the squad room.  I saw a smile of Jayne’s face as she walked away.

Credits

From the title, and Deviled’s muttered comment, “Out of the mouths of babes” is the beginning of Psalm 8:2 in many English translations, but not the NIV.  “Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger” (NRSV).  It is a common idiom meaning great wisdom that comes from an inexperienced source.  Perfect for this case.  Since this series started from a single story written as a part of a challenge to use as many idioms as possible, using one as a title is a way of tribute to Kathy of A Time to Share who challenged me to write just one story, and then …  This is the 41st installment of the Deviled Yeggs mysteries, considering posts, in that a few have been multiple parts of a single story.

Nancy Drew is a fictional teen-aged girl who solves mysteries.  The publisher of the Hardy Boys series wanted a female counterpart to encourage young girls and get a lot of book sales.  The Hardy Boys series started in 1927 with the Nancy Drew series following with the first story in 1930.  Several people ghost wrote the Nancy Drew series under the name Carolyn Keene.

Popeye the Sailor ate a can of spinach to become instantly more powerful.

Peasgood’s Nonesuch apples may be the largest of the apple varieties.  Some of these apples have weighed as much as a pound each.

While many municipalities have Crime Stoppers (originally two words) or some other type of reward system for providing helpful evidence, it was started by Chester Gould through his Dick Tracy comic strip.  The idea was started that Dick Tracy’s son, Junior, and a few friends would be “Crime Stoppers.”  But the police chief in Gould’s hometown talked with Gould and set up a Crime Stopper program for their town in real life instead of fiction.  That led to special notations in the comic strip and the proliferation of Crime Stopper (Crime-stopper or Crimestopper) programs across the country.

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