I’m Detective Staff Sergeant Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. My partner is Jim Wednesday. Due to the conspicuous and unannounced absence of my nephew, Detective Poached Yeggs, Jim and I were our old duo again. No third wheel, at least Captain Al Hart said it would be for two months minimum.
Mashie Niblick invited us to his surprise new home, although no where near finished. He had a surprise celebration for closing the investigation of the death of Terrance Cotta, and other events subsequent to that. I think we would not have been lost following the obvious breadcrumbs without Mashie’s information, but for him to invite us into his home, to be on a television show? That was a special treat.
To catch you up to speed on the Terry Cotta murder. The cause of death was “Death by Golf Ball.” The murder weapon was a crossbow, rigged to fire golf balls. I am sure that the murderer had used it on the course, maybe as a joke, maybe when in the woods and no one saw his “swing.” Mashie pointed toward rampant cheating at the Hoity Toity Golf and Monopoly Club, mostly playing Monopoly, but why stop there?
The Monopoly side of things has been totally shut down at the club until further notice. Amy G. Dala was worried about being removed as president due to unwanted notoriety for the club, but the media spun the story as “President Dala of the Hoity Toity Club Champions Fair Play and cooperation with the Law in Blackmail Scheme.”
Honest! The local media outlets, owned by club members, cooked up that spin on their own, and unwittingly saved Ms. Dala’s presidency.
The most vocal board member who ordered Amy to not investigate Terrance Cotta’s cheating at Monopoly – that led to coercion and blackmail, all to provide information to State Senator Dom Drum – realized in her bringing this before the board that Cotta had to go, especially when he realized that the Cottas were cheating when he lost to them in Monopoly. He sold out his partner at the accounting firm for improprieties. He gained full control of the firm, but he had violated a trust. Odd how violating a trust was against his moral code, while murdering Terrance Cotta was not.
We had it all on video, stored on Tara Cotta’s laptop. She had the recording running while Terrance was in room 204 of the lodge, starting to disconnect the equipment. As he was reaching for the camera, filling the camera’s view with his face, he suddenly had a shocked look on his face. He fell and then the video clearly showed the board member, Geld Penise, firing a second golf ball directly between the eyes. He reloaded, firing more to vent his rage.
When Tara saw this over the Wi-Fi connection from her car, she panicked. She drove too fast in leaving the club. She missed a curve, crashed, and died when she was ejected from the vehicle, not wearing a seatbelt in the panic. It was a miracle that the leaking gasoline did not send the car and the laptop up in flames. The fire department still can’t figure out how the car did not catch on fire. We had all the evidence we needed when we viewed the videos on the laptop.
With probable cause, we found a safe in the Cotta home that had copies of everything they had ever given Dom Drum. It was delicate work getting him to remove his hat from the ring in the governor race without ruining the reputation of half the rich and famous in Tracy, but we pulled it off. Senator Drum magnanimously waived his retirement package as a state senator and escaped prosecution, moving to the Caribbean where he is probably living off his ill-gotten gains that he had in an offshore account. The District Attorney wanted him behind bars, but settled on the various crimes, perpetrated by the Cottas were closed.
So, with Mashie knowing about the blackmail and who eventually benefitted, and he guessed correctly that video cameras had been used in room 204, he was in a great mood, inviting us to a house skeleton party. It will be a great house once they are finished, but Pauline needs to know that it is not nice living a block away from her boss, and living in a nicer, newer, and bigger home. Really, Glyce is happy for her.
We knew about the new home being built, but the owner’s name had been a secret. It wasn’t much larger than our own, but the kitchen and dining areas were huge, large enough to host a cooking show. When the home improvement channel had filmed the construction of the kitchen, they called their friends at the cooking channel. Their friends coaxed a well-known chef in Stout County into doing a cooking special. When Mashie heard about this, he was irate. He and Pauline should be the first people to cook in their own home, so Chef “Blitz” Blixem, of “Dunder and Blixem” in Stout County allowed them to each be Sous Chefs, just for the day all of it was televised.
Blitz is a Dutchman who immigrated to Stout County, emigrating from the Netherlands. Since Blitz cooked all of Detective Wolfe’s meals (having a private table in the corner of the kitchen), Detective Wolfe agreed to leave the county, a very rare occurrence. In exchange for his discomfiture, Detective Wolfe insisted on establishing the menu. Since Detective Wolfe was a Gourmand who always hungry, the menu included braised wild turkey, squabs with sauce Venitienne, venison loin chops, fricandeau (pork), cassoulet Castlenaudary (pork), capon Souvaroff (pate de foie gras and black truffles), cucumber mousse, corn fritters, and tomato tarts. He apologized for not having starlings (unable to obtain them) and his favorite, shad roe (which was out of season). Blitz fixed a modified Saucisse Minuit for the children. Instead of the sausage cut into medallions and served on a bed of rice with the sauce, it was served in links on hot dog buns, but the children were warned to not call it a hot dog. It was Blitz’s own recipe for the sausage and the sauce. For dessert, there was creole curds and cream (with anise), crème genoise (with a hint of orange), and papaya custard.
In attendance were the entire Deviled Yeggs family with grandfathers (Glyce, me, Easter, Sophie, Blaise, my Dad, and GrandPa), the Jim Wednesday family (Jim, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Holiday and Tuesday’s mother, Marta, to help keep the little ones quiet), Scrambled Yeggs and his son, Rotten Yeggs, Amy G. Dala (president of the Hoity Toity club), Captain Al Hart (who got a doggie bag to take food home to his ailing wife and her sister who provided nursing help while Captain Hart was at the soiree – of course, the two ladies were watching it live on a special channel while the show was taping), Gisele, Captain Hart’s secretary, and her daughter, Lilith, Pauline’s grandparents (Rev. Os Tozer and wife, Mary), Jemima and her parents, the present pastors at the church. Others were invited, but they had to decline due to prior engagements. The Police Commissioner was distraught, missing a chance to be on television. (Did I say that? Oops.) Mashie sat at one end of the temporary custom-built table designed for twenty-eight people (the fancy Christmas centerpieces and table clothes, covering the unjointed seems and sawhorse table legs – television magic), while Pauline sat next to Detective Wolfe at the other end of the table. Mashie and Pauline communicated by Bluetooth headsets, too far apart and they did not wish to shout. Det. Wolfe, with a microphone and speakers, explained the next dish that would be served so that everyone was eager, except for Jim’s little ones, who were just there, being cute. Sophie was usually a picky eater, but she devoured everything. Blaise tasted everything, and thankfully, he kept his mouth shut.
Oh, I forgot. My Dad brought a date, of sorts. She was one of the full-time counselors at the mission where he serves, basically as a bouncer. You stayed as long as you liked unless you caused trouble or were actively taking an illegal substance. My Dad was the rule enforcer, but it was nice that he had gotten to know Maeve Collins. She was a sweet young lady, young enough to be Dad’s granddaughter, and she was devoted to serving and helping the disadvantaged.
As we all watched the cooking show being filmed, that may be shown in multiple parts, we were the audience that got to taste test everything. We had the television crew that ended up eating in one of the bedrooms or den or some other room. We couldn’t tell in that the kitchen was finished, but the rest of the house had only the studs up, not even walls, except for the outside walls, closed in so that they had some security over what was finished, and they could now do some of the work in bad weather.
In one of the breaks in the filming, Scrambled exclaimed that he finally got a text with attached photos from Poached. Before he read the text to everyone, he confessed, “Everyone, I already knew what Poached was up to, me and Captain Hart that had to approve the time off and Callie’s department at the university.” Captain Hart nodded. Scrambled continued, “I would like to announce that some time ago, Callie Johnson and Poached Yeggs eloped.”
There were ejaculations from half the people in the room. Most of them saying that Scrambled was off his meds. When Callie had a function to attend, she invited Poached, since she had no steady boyfriend. Poached did the same thing. They were just friends, neither interested in a lasting relationship or so everyone was saying around the room.
Scrambled laughed, “Looks like the two of them fooled all of you. When they started dating after Callie showed up as a witness, Poached’s mother insisted that he love and leave her. My ex-wife has ornithophobia really bad. She insisted that Poached not get serious with an ornithologist, afraid the house would be filled with birds. Callie wasn’t going to throw away her college degrees, so that was that. Then her father insisted that Callie love and leave Poached, because Poached had me for a father, mine and Deviled’s Dad as his grandfather, and GrandPa as his great-grandfather. I never spent time in prison, but Mr. Johnson did not wish to have the offspring of jailbirds dating his daughter. So, you know kids these days. They did exactly what their folks told them not to do. I was the only one who knew, because I love Callie like she was the only thing bright and shining in the family. Mainly because she is the only thing bright and shiny, compared to me and Rotten.”
Then there were groans around the room. There were murmurings that if that was what they were basing their marriage on, it was thin ground. Then I started agreeing with what Scrambled had said about not being a “shining example” to his children. Scrambled took exception to me agreeing with what he, himself, had said, and Glyce had to break up the fight that was about to start.
GrandPa yelled, “Not a Christmas gathering of family until the first fight starts.” Then everyone laughed. After a bit of growling, Scrambled and I gave each other a hug.
Then Scrambled continued. “Now, I will read the text. ‘I got your text, Dad. We keep Callie’s SAT phone in a water-tight container, buried near us, but we only call if it is an emergency or we are on a different island. Let us at least watch the television shows when we get back, especially if they film everyone eating. It can be the wedding reception that we never had.’” There were a few sighs around the room, even from the television show producer. “’Since neither family could accept us as a couple, we had to do it this way. In time, we want a church wedding. But there is no way anyone could beat this honeymoon, no matter how adventurous you might be. Callie is on a bird watching expedition for TRUST (Tracy Regional University for Science and Technology). We have already gotten videos and photos of rare birds and birds that may be frequent visitors to the Everglades, when they are listed as vagrant birds, only showing up on occasion when they get off course. We have our own island, a mahogany mangrove, in the Everglades all to ourselves with the service boat coming by twice each week to a neighboring island. We have to swim over to get supplies and download data from our phones. We would not be able to communicate at all if it were not for Callie’s SAT phone that the college supplied. On this trip, I am her bodyguard in case alligators or big snakes show up and a second photographer. We are both naked and covered in mud, to try to eliminate any human scent and to blend into the background. See the pictures that are attached.’”
Glyce yelled, “You are not showing pictures of them naked! I hope the naked part is just a joke!”
Scrambled laughed, “I think that the naked part is more honeymoon fantasy than what is required, but the photos only show them from the shoulders up, painted in some kind of clay. The rest of the pictures are bird pictures. They will be down there for at least two months, maybe longer. They are doing the best they can to track the migration of the winter birds of South Florida and learning how migration patterns may have changed due to sea-level rise. The photos are named for the type of bird it is. Otherwise, I’d be lost. I’ll pass my phone around since there ain’t no naked pictures on here. All the birds are properly feathered. Just wanted you to know that they are safe.”
Blitz came over and explained that the filming of the cooking was complete, and we could all enjoy the full meal, having only nibbled for the camera up to that point.
Glyce suggested that someone should say Grace, and to everyone’s surprise, my Dad stood up. Maeve squeezed his hand, smiled up at him, and nodded. My Dad had rarely attended church. He was a lifelong criminal, cracking safes in middle school and high school, before graduating to bigger robberies.
I muttered to Glyce, “This is going to be good, but I hope they are not filming.” She smiled and shook her head.
My Dad’s voice was shaky. It was obvious he’d never done anything like this before. “The way we do it at the mission is that everybody folds their hands, closes their eyes, and bows their heads. You figure out what you want to do. Holding hands might be tough with such a big table and a bunch of kids.” Our family usually held each other’s hands, and we got most of the crowd to join in.
My Dad prayed, “God, I ain’t good at this. Before I got to the mission, I probably never thought of You, umm, ever. But I know now that I love You.” Glyce and I opened our eyes and looked at each other. The look on Glyce’s face was that of shock, then as she realized that her wild scheme of getting Dad a job at the mission just might have worked, the tears started to flow. I nodded and we bowed our heads again. As for everyone around the table, a few snickered at what he said and my Dad’s clumsiness at first, but the mood changed. I’ll let you learn why without further interruption.
“God, when they kicked me out of prison because the prison was full, all I wanted to do was to do something that would send me back to prison. I felt safe there. I have done far too many bad things in this world. I deserved to be in prison, but this lady next to me continued to do what my daughter-in-law, Naomi, started, she believed that I could repent and God would forgive me and I could be saved, just like most of the good people around this table. And I hope that Glyce doesn’t mind me calling her Naomi, Glyce is short for nitroglycerin, but I have never seen her explode too bad. Her real name is Trinity Naomi Tesla (TNT) Yeggs. She was named for her grandmothers. Trinity is what you are God, three persons in one God. I can’t explain that, but I believe it. Naomi means “pleasant one” or “pleasantness.” That’s why I want to call her Naomi.”
“And, God, this lady that is holding my hand is someone that I love dearly. She is young enough to be my granddaughter, but I have feelings for her that I have had for no other woman since I went to prison, when my mistakes cost my wife her bakery business and she had to go work for the new owners and finish raising two sons on her own. Yeah, God, I don’t understand why You would ever love me, but You do.”
“And, God, I want my two sons to forgive me. You say that we cannot be forgiven unless we forgive others, but God, it’s hard forgiving someone who abandoned you half a lifetime ago and caused you nothing but grief before that. I can never make it up to my sons, all the grief that I have caused, but I want to start by letting them know that I am a new man. I feel confident that Deviled is a new man too, been there since he was a teen-ager, but Scrambled, oh, Scrambled. I named him wrong, Lord. He has grown up, living a scrambled life. He ain’t never been in jail, but he hangs out with those that do. I know, I know, he helps Deviled when he can, and he works as a bounty hunter when he’s not helping Mashie at the golf club. But I would love for Scrambled and Rotten to come to the mission and stay a few days. Naomi is right. The mission changes people. The mission showed me that I needed You, and You changed me.
“And I look around this table and I see pain. Pain is part of life, God. I hope I never dish out any more pain than I have to. Each time I kick someone out of the mission, I take them to the alley and pray for them, pray that they learn from their mistake so we can take them back in. I know that pain is necessary at times. I know that prayer works. I have seen those simple prayers in the alley help those people to turn around. But some of the pain that I see is pain for other people. They are so absorbed in their own pain and that of people that they love that they don’t realize that they hurt others as they lash out because of that pain. Help them to be healed, Lord, even when it is Your will that the loved one that they care about is not healed.
“And God, I pray for my father here on earth. You are my Heavenly Father, but You gave me a great man who might have been a Yegg, but he served his country as a Yegg instead of doing wrong by it. He loved my mother and he still loves her, although she has been gone a long, long time. He liked a woman named Mary, who is at this table, but he gave his heart away to only one woman and that was my mother. God, my father is far from a perfect man, but I wish I had half the integrity he has, and the honor.
“I love everyone around this table. And God, I nearly forgot. Bless this food and bless those who put this whole thing together and bless those that cooked the food and those that made the TV show.
“As Tiny Tim said, ‘God, bless us, every one!’
I turned to Glyce, “I hope they were filming.”
The producer overheard me. She said, “The cameras were rolling. We’ll edit the prayer for all you here. The network would never let us air it, but it’s a shame. After that prayer, I’m going to start going back to church again. Mr. Yeggs, you touched my heart tonight.”
I asked Glyce, “Should I call you Naomi?”
“Not on your life! If I ever explode it’s probably a 90% chance that you are involved. But for tonight, sure.”
I smiled, “Naomi, I love you.”
Then we both looked each other in the eye and said, “God, bless us, every one.”
Geld and Penise are both words for “money”, in German and in Czech.
In Twas the Night before Christmas, two of the reindeer were originally Dunder and Blixem, which are the Dutch words for “Thunder and Lightning.” But over time, the German version of Blixem prevailed, Blitzen, and Dunder became Donder. In Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Donder became Donner. So, you may have heard any or all combinations. But a restaurant owned by a chef from Holland was not making a Christmas statement here. He was referring to how much thunder and lightning were in Stout County.
I hope, if I have not mentioned this in a previous story’s “Credits” section that Detective Wolfe from Stout County is my tribute to Nero Wolfe, the detective who almost never left his brownstone, having Archie Goodwin and others do the digging for him, bringing the victims and suspects to Wolfe for cross examination. Rex Stout was the author. Wolfe, besides never leaving home, was obsessive about his schedule. Nobody messed with his time with the orchids, aided by Theodore Horstmann, the orchid expert. And nobody messed with mealtime, cooked by Fritz Brenner, master chef. Wolfe was a Gourmand of the highest order.
While Wolfe had full use of Fritz in the Stout novels, Det. Wolfe of Stout County had to go to the restaurant, eating in the kitchen. I do not know if all Bucca di Beppo restaurants have one, but if you pay enough, you can have the one table in the kitchen for even more family-style ambiance.
The food mentioned all comes from the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, written by Rex Stout. I did not find the Saucisse Minuit in the pdf version of the Cookbook (having difficulty reading the pages that would load of a nearly 300 page cookbook), but I am sure it is there since a few other sites claimed that and Shad Roe (Available February through May) were Wolfe’s favorite foods. The book titles, if given in the cookbook, show which novel or novella these dishes were introduced. Fer-de-lance was Stout’s first novel while Death of a Doxy and The Doorbell Rang were near the end. I have read them all, but I do not have the cookbook … yet.
- braised wild turkey [The Black Mountain]
- squabs with sauce Venitienne [Die like a Dog]
- venison loin chops [The Doorbell Rang]
- fricandeau [The Red Box]
- cassoulet Castlenaudary [Instead of Evidence]
- capon Souvaroff [Death of a Doxy]
- cucumber mousse
- corn fritters
- tomato tarts [Fer-de-lance]
- shad roe
- Saucisse Minuit
- creole curds and cream
- crème genoise
- papaya custard [Gambit]
“Maeve” is a French name meaning “Goddess” or “Intoxicating.”
Miracles: 1) The car driven by Tara Cotta did not catch on fire. 2) Hugh McAdoo set up the home improvement television show which led to the cooking show. 3) Blitz Blixem was available and willing. 4) Det. Wolfe never leaves Stout County – almost never. 5) Sophie ate everything. 6) Blaise kept his mouth shut. 7) Deviled’s Dad insisted on saying Grace. 8) Deviled and Glyce allowed him to do so. 9) A hardened criminal and lifelong scoffer of anything to do with God admits that he has accepted Jesus – as C. S. Lewis and Eric Metaxas agree in their books called, Miracles, may be the greatest miracle of them all for anyone to become saved by faith. 10) We may that the miracles will multiply from there. Who knows what might be in the next episode.
“God, bless us, every one” is said by Tiny Tim Cratchit in the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.