I’m Detective Staff Sgt. Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. My partner is Detective Sgt. Jim Wednesday. He was not with me on this assignment. I was dealing with a cracked safe, a sloppy job, a job with a strange connection to my family, a family of yeggs, safe crackers. The problem was that we needed a babysitter for the children, even though none are babies anymore. The following report is mostly from security camera footage around the house. Neither Glyce, my wife, nor I were at home for most of what happened at our home that night.
Glyce had the three children at the kitchen table. She said, “You better behave for the Old Man. He has only come by to visit a few times and only at meal time. He does not know you that well. And Blaise? No science experiments. We do not want any disasters on the Old Man’s watch. He has never been around children. He will not know how to handle such matters.”
Easter and Sophia said, “Yes, Mom.”
Blaise rolled his eyes and said, “Yes, mother.”
The doorbell rang.
Glyce went to the front of the house and opened the door.
The Old Man said, “Scraping the bottom of the barrel, are ya? Why couldn’t the pastor come to babysit your children while I stayed at the mission? But no. He stayed at the mission in my place while I came here. Why the sudden rush to need a babysitter? Do you know that babysitting is something I have never done?”
Glyce gave him a hug. When she stepped back, she said, “Deviled is investigating a case and he says it has gotten sticky. I just got a call from my department secretary. She is in labor and needs help. I am on my way to the hospital to be with her while she delivers twins.”
“Why can’t her husband do that?”
Glyce lowered her head. “Her husband was in the Army Reserves. He was in a helicopter crash and died. It was a typical training exercise that went horribly wrong. The accident is under investigation, but we may never hear anything. Her sister is in town to take care of the older children, and since I know the routine for natural childbirth, I am her coach. It was supposed to be Pauline, but she and Mashie are off doing something for the government this weekend. Any more questions?”
“With me in charge, the house could burn down. I suppose all the emergency numbers are on the fridge?”
“Yes, they are, but don’t worry, Old Man. The two older children are mostly grown up and the youngest thinks that he is. If you smell anything strange in the air, just tell Blaise that he promised not to conduct any experiments tonight. If he behaves, you might get back to the mission tomorrow with all your hair. My advice? Talk to them. Get to know them. They are wonderful children. One is kind of strange, but I think he might grow up, someday.” With that, Glyce was gone.
The Old Man went to the kitchen for a glass of water. The only child remaining was Blaise, the youngest and most prone to cause trouble – trouble in the spirit of scientific discovery. The Old Man nodded. Blaise put down the physics text that he was reading and said, “Easter, my brother, says that you tell everyone to call you Old Man. I shall not do so. Old Man is a derogatory term. Is it not?”
The Old Man shrugged, “I suppose so, but I have been called that ever since kindergarten.”
“I reject that as a good reason to call someone who is family a derogatory name. I shall call you ‘Grand Father.’”
“No pop pop, gramps, paupau?”
“Is not being a grandfather your function? Why create a nickname? Grand Father shall suffice.”
“What do you call your other grandfather?”
“He’s Serbo-Croatian. We call him Djed.”
“Is that short for Jedidiah?”
“No, Djed. That is Serbo-Croatian for grandfather.”
“Well, it is nice that we cleared that up. I hear that you are not allowed to experiment. I know what it is like to get you wings clipped. If you want to talk about it, I’m available.”
“No, thank you, Grand Father. If I finish this chapter before bedtime, I will switch to a Philosophy text that I find utterly fascinating.”
“I’m sure it is.” The Old Man made his way to the den where Easter was watching television, a documentary on tornadoes.
Easter perked up with the Old Man in the room. “Hi, Granddad, we promised to be on our best behavior, but to be honest, Soapy and I prefer it that way. The one that gets bored and gets into things is Blaise.”
“I think that is what your mother was hinting at when she left.”
Easter nodded. “Mom is with Beth Anne. I have babysat her kids a few times so far this year. She even let me invite Jemima over once and the two children and Jemima and me played games. Mom is trying to hook her up with financial aid, something other than loans. With her husband dying on active duty, there must be a lot that she could qualify for, and when Mom sinks her teeth into something, she finds every little nook and cranny. I’d love to talk more, but this documentary is important. Storm chasers were killed during this storm, and I keep re-watching every documentary on this storm to see what went wrong.”
The Old Man smiled and nodded. He then went upstairs to the bedrooms. He noticed that Sophie’s door was closed. He knocked gently.
Sophie, on the other side of the door, giggled and said, “You may enter, Granddaddy.”
The Old Man entered and said, “Granddaddy? That’s kind of girlish. I thought you were grown up.”
Sophie gave him a goofy face. “I’m not a teen-ager yet. I can get away with Granddaddy for a couple of years.”
“And what are you doing?”
“I’m trying my hand at knitting. I’m not that good yet, but I have been giving the scarves away at the mission. Funny, you never seem to be there when I drop by.”
“I’ve been spending my daylight hours, when the usual staff is around, taking classes on dealing with a variety of mental illnesses, addictions, and such. Knowing their tendencies before they get out on the edge can help me resolve the problems before it escalates into a fist fight or worse.”
“I didn’t know that you could still go to school at you age.”
“Now listen, young lady. I am not that old. I can still learn a thing or two.”
She giggled and went back to her crochet. The Old Man then went to the least used room in the house, the “living” room. He turned an overstuffed chair in the direction of the security camera. He sat down and faced the camera. “Okay, sonny boy. I am behaving myself. I am babysitting and I am not corrupting your children. If they take on a life of crime, it is not my fault. Maybe next time, you won’t set up a Nanny Cam in every room of the house.”
By this time, I had walked up behind him. I said, “They are security cameras. We set them up to catch Blaise starting another of his science experiments.”
The Old Man jumped up and yelled, “Don’t sneak up on me like that! I nearly had a heart attack! I am an Old Man, you know!”
“Old Man, I know you are an Old Man. Besides, this is my house. I have a key. I do not need to knock.”
“And while we are clarifying things, I am no longer Old Man. You have to pick a different name. I have already been called three names since I got here.”
“Let me guess. From oldest to youngest, it was ‘Granddad, Granddaddy, and grandfather.’ I just added ‘grand’ to the three names they call me.”
“Wow! A detective at work! But I think it is Grand Father. He takes a breath in the middle to emphasize that it is two different words.” I just rolled my eyes. Leave it to Blaise to make a casual greet and meet into a formal occasion. Then the Old Man added, “And what was so difficult about a robbery?”
“Dad, if that name works for you, it is either the easiest safe cracking that I have every solved or it is the most difficult. It was sloppy. The modus operandi does not match yours or GrandPa’s style, but the smudged prints are GrandPa’s prints. At least that is what one database says, some international registry. GrandPa has been at his new mountain cabin fixing it up to be safer than Fort Knox. There is ample evidence that he has never left, but that leaves me baffled.”
My father swung his chair back around so that we could both sit and talk. Dad sighed, “If the MO is off, then it wasn’t your grandfather. He was the most disciplined man I ever met. His father was a bit of a free-wheeling sort, but not your GrandPa.”
“But if it wasn’t GrandPa and someone has his fingerprints, it may be someone that is trying to flush him into the open. And how could one person have the fingerprints of another person?” I left the case file on the front seat of the car. I thought I could run through it with my Old Man. I jumped up and ran for the front door and opened it.
Hugh McAdoo stood there, smiling, “You sure take a long time answering the door.”
“But you haven’t knocked yet.”
“Details, details! Deviled, I have two things to tell you. First a cease-and-desist order. Quit calling Millennium Yeggs. We redirect his calls through several servers. It is supposed to make it look like you end up in northern Alaska under a fictitious name?”
“Nanook of the North?”
“How did you know?! And second, those are not the fingerprints of Millennium Yeggs. If you ever did the search in reverse, you would find a completely different set of prints.”
“But how did I get bogus prints and how did they get traced back to GrandPa?”
“I am glad you asked. And that is why you have a new partner for a while. Me. You’ve got a spare bedroom, do you not?”
“Woah, you have some explaining to do first.”
Hugh raised his hands in defeat. “Okay, if you let me in so that I can sit down. I just fly flew in from Washington, DC, and boy, are my arms tired.” After he sat down, he finally said something that made sense, if any spy game stuff ever makes sense. “What do you do when you have two dictatorships next to each other who cannot stand each other, both destabilizing a key part of an area? You destabilize each of their governments by putting one despot against the other. Your GrandPa did his usual thing in his most effective manner. He stole plans to attack the neighbor; he stole a ton of cash, jewels, and gold bullion; and he did something that he never did, ever. He left prints, but the prints that he left were the prints of his neighbor’s right-hand man, who had been a yegg himself. He could crack a safe. We stole one guy’s stuff and planted evidence that it was the other guy. We lifted the guys prints and ran them through a top end 3D printer and made gloves for Millennium to wear, but he was so meticulous with his method that he only left a few. What none of us knew at the time was that as Millennium was robbing the royal safe in one country, the neighboring despot’s right-hand man was dying of a heart attack in the other. So, with the familiar MO, they thought they finally had the fingerprints of Millennium Yeggs. Now, partner, how did a person who died decades ago just rob a bank in the big city of Tracy?”
“I would still prefer to work with my usual partner, but I must admit. This one may be above my paygrade. Welcome to the team.”
“The Doorbell Rang” is the title and first statement of one of the last Nero Wolfe novels written by Rex Stout (1965). It is a pivotal novel and to get its full impact, you would have to read a few of the previous novels. But the essence of the novel is very important. We all make mistakes.
On helicopter crashes, I recently read where a helicopter crashed off shore in the Pacific Ocean, and they were investigating. It brought back memories of our time in Germany during the Cold War. There were at least two unexplained helicopter crashes, one in a highly populated city. The Stars and Stripes newspaper reported the crashes, but they never reported the results of the investigations. Were these crashes sabotage? Were they faulty equipment or pilot error? Since I occasionally flew by helicopter to get to various construction project sites, I wanted to know, but I never found out. I was in a helicopter that auto-rotored into a rutabaga field, unreported as a “crash” since no one was hurt and the helicopter was still able to fly. It was a gage that was stuck, and we quickly took flight again, only a little shaken up. We were blessed, but not everyone survives helicopter crashes.
Nanook of the North was a silent film docudrama from 1922, back before documentaries and dramas were two separate types of films. The docudrama was filmed in 1914 and 1915, documenting life as an Inuit. The man playing the part of Nanook was not named Nanook.
“I just flew in, and boy, are my arms tired!” is one of my favorite Red Skelton jokes. And if Skelton ever talked about flying into or out of DC, he would add a Gertrude and Heathcliff routine. It would usually have two jokes as a minimum. Gertrude: Why do jet airplanes go so fast? Heathcliff: You would go that fast too, if your tail was on fire! And one other of my favorites… Gertrude: You know, Heathcliff, that’s Washington, DC! Heathcliff “flies” in a couple of circles and then says: Well, there’s one on the House!