When It Gets Too Easy, It Gets Difficult – A Deviled Yeggs Mystery

I’m Detective Staff Sergeant Deviled Yeggs.  I work homicide in the big city of Tracy.  My partner is Jim Wednesday.  Poached Yeggs is still on his honeymoon, but he is supposedly back in town.  We are unable to locate him which, even with just returning from his honeymoon, is a violation of department rules.  I would let it go, but he is my nephew and that looks bad.  Then again, we are shorthanded due to the virus having so many people out sick.

We had been given a corpse at a location that gave us a good reason to interview Pink Lady Apple at her home, but it simply was not that easy.

The body was found in the alley behind the house.  It was behind a dumpster that is mostly used by the Lily the Pink Medicinal Compound manufacturing facility, her cider house, which is connected to Pink Lady’s home.  The body was of city councilman, Randy Manley.  Manley’s car had been spotted on the street in front of Pink Lady’s house in at least half the observations since Tuesday Wednesday started filming with her dash cam and our Organized Crime people had done their observations.  He must have been a “randy” fellow, just not anymore.

The cause of death was asphyxiation on water lily root, one of the main ingredients of the hard apple cider known as Lily the Pink.

Manley’s pants were on backwards, so it seemed he was dressed postmortem and in a hurry.  His socks were inside out.  While many people might do that, these were novelty socks.  Who wants to have their favorite cartoon characters facing your ankles instead of facing the public?  The autopsy showed he had been drinking Lily the Pink, at least the entire list of ingredients, with far too much of the lily root, in his system.

But then there was one thing that messed up everything else.  Morbidity showed that he died face down, but the body was placed face up with his hands folded neatly across his chest, as if he died, ready to be placed in the coffin.  It was such a clearly staged scene that all the rest of the evidence pointing to Pink Lady seemed too good to be true.  But is that what she wanted us to think?

The body was found when the garbage truck lifted the dumpster to empty it, the body was immediately in front of the driver.  No way to miss it.

We had George Evident knock on Pink Lady’s front door along with all the neighbors.  At Pink Lady’s house, through a speakeasy style window, his knock was answered by the bodyguard, identified as Baldwin Apple, a good friend of Scrambled Yeggs, my brother.  Baldwin listened to George’s routine statement of a suspected homicide in the area, and did they know of anything or had they seen anything suspicious in the alley, and can we return later to take statements from everyone here.  The body was behind the dumpster that they used.  Someone might have seen something.  Baldwin told him to get lost and not return without a warrant.  Baldwin said that no one at Pink Lady’s home had seen anything, but the police clogging the alley was hurting business.

We thought that the business that it hurt worse was the brothel business, but they would claim that they were missing shipments of the sweet elixir, Lily the Pink.

Jim and I might try to have an audience with Pink Lady, but it was going to take a warrant.

Back in the office, Jim was digging into anything that we could dig up on the deceased.  His voting record seemed to show that he was the ultimate toady for the mayor, Beaux Lightly.  He always voted for the mayor’s hairbrained ideas.  I called in Lt. Tagliolini.  We had a new judge as of the latest elections.  All the other judges had been spotted going in or coming out of Pink Lady’s home.  The new judge was female, but that might not stop Pink Lady having someone that would cater to her needs.  The new judge, Bess Trueblue, ran on a hard line against crime platform, and everything in what she has said was very conservative in values.

The Lt. walked in about the same time Jim came to my office.

Lt. Tagliolini started, “Our new judge is fully up to speed with what Tuesday Wednesday found and what we have followed up with.  She does not wish for us to have a raid in order to interview people at the brothel regarding the homicide.  With the body being moved and all the evidence pointing toward Pink Lady’s operation, it seems too good to be true.  If we do the raid, we need to know what we will find before we go in.  With the murder investigation, they may change their routine since they know there are cops in the neighborhood, at least the cops are in and out of the neighborhood.  The judge suggests that you ask Pink Lady to meet you at a neutral site and see how far that goes.  You know, the old mountain and Muhammad thing.”

I nodded, “I might be able to pull that off.  If I can’t pull it off, Scrambled may be able to intercede for me.”

The Lt. straightened in his chair.  “What does he know about this?  How is he involved?”

I shrugged, not wanting to get into the details, “Scrambled and Pink Lady knew each other from when Scrambled was in high school.  Pink Lady is three years older.  They were friends before Pink Lady was ever in the business.  All his knowledge of the Rotten Apples and their operation that we have enjoyed in past years started with that friendship and extending to his present friendship with Baldwin, the bouncer.  Any information beyond that is personal and I can confirm that it has nothing to do with any of the three issues: the raid on a brothel, the running of organized crime in Tracy, or the homicide, or a magic elixir that overstates its effectiveness.  Okay that’s four things, but I dare say we are only interested in Lily the Pink Medicinal Compound as it relates to the homicide.  And it relates in a very direct way.”

Jim said, “The victim is a strange bird.  His voting record shows that he is in Mayor Lightly’s back pocket.  But there have been e-mails that indicate he hates the mayor.  The money trail may reflect some connection that I’m not finding, but Poached is a lot better at that than I am.  Where is he?”

I shook my head, “Still officially on his honeymoon until next Monday, with permission, although he ran out of vacation, overtime compensation, and sick leave.  I think the captain is happy to not have him around, but with half the force out sick, a warm body would be nice, even a distracted, obnoxious one.  The airline confirms that he was back in town two days ago.  I got the same confirmation from the college on Callie.  Callie keeps e-mailing them photographs and observation reports on her winter bird migration study in the Everglades.  That means that they are somewhere with Internet access, but they have not turned on their phones, not responding to e-mails, and they are at neither of their known residences.  Callie had two residences, and she is at neither place, her apartment just off campus nor at her parent’s home.  Since her father hates Poached, I did not think that would work.  The logical spot is Poached’s apartment, and he cancelled his lease nearly two months ago.  Strange how a cop cannot be found when the police force needs him.  Is that not supposed to be one of our skill sets?  I mean, we got skills, but they are not effective.”

The Lt. shook his head.  “They aren’t really being used effectively when we do not have enough people to do the routine things.  I’m surprised they haven’t had you and Jim out doing patrol duty.”

Jim nodded, “It’s kind of the opposite.  We used to have the beat patrols check up on leads, ask around the neighborhood, and now we have to do that ourselves.  Not as efficient when the people on the beat know the neighborhood better than we do.”

When the meeting broke up, I called Scrambled and he set up the meeting at the park, on the grassy knoll, where I first met my wife, Glyce.  Pink Lady would be at the picnic table. Baldwin would allow the body cam and recorder, but he would not allow weapons or handcuffs.  He would frisk us.  We would sit at the table and have a friendly chat.  If any accusations or criminal charges got discussed, the meeting was over.  Odd, there was nothing said as to whether we could frisk Baldwin.  And no way would we touch Pink Lady, and they would not accept Tuesday Wednesday coming for a woman’s point of view or to do any frisking.  That was a good thing, I had no idea what embarrassing things Pink Lady might bring up.

On the way to the meeting, Jim asked, “Deviled, I thought Scrambled knew everything that goes on at the brothel, but whenever you give a report, especially about Pink Lady, he knows nothing.”

I replied, “Scrambled overestimates his importance.  He has no legal stance in the operation.  Baldwin tells him what Baldwin wants him to know.  And Scrambled has a soft spot for Pink Lady.  He is not going to incriminate her directly.  Now, as for Rotten Yeggs, our dear brother of the missing Poached, he tells me everything.  The Pink Lady operation in Doyle County is a Chinese Style Hotel.  The greenhouses for water lily production are next door.  They have two floors of the hotel with an illegal gambling den and gentlemen’s club.  And yes, full nude waitresses and strippers and everything that goes with that.  Then the rooms of the hotel are luxurious rooms, top of the line hotel rooms.  When you check in, you are asked to fill out a form with a check mark and confirmation checkmark for massage, so two notations that you want a massage, and the concierge asks if you want massage service any time, day or night.  If the person renting the hotel room for the night works out a schedule for the massage, then the schedule is kept.  If not, you could get a phone call at any hour or a masseuse knocking on your doorbell at any hour.  The girls doing the massages are Chinese and they know English, but they pretend they don’t.  In a girlish voice they ask, ‘Mah – sah – geee!’  If you say no, they may leave you alone or they may come back in a couple of hours for a second try.  But, according to Rotten, they give a great massage, but then what happens next isn’t bad either.”

Jim rolled his eyes, “And Rotten just told you all this without an interrogation?”

“Jim, he’s family.  I love it that he tells me anything.  Other than going to a brothel once each month, he is keeping his nose clean.  I think he’ll stay out of jail.  Scrambled is trying to get him to help with bounty hunting.  It’s a work in progress.  For now, I can live with that.  Besides, he and Scrambled have been going to church regularly since the first of the year.  Not a good sample size, but who knows.”

Baldwin’s pat down was professional.  Baldwin knew what he was doing.  He traced the wire so that he confirmed no Wi-Fi on the body cam.  What we said was being recorded, but no one else would hear it until we got back to the precinct.  That gave Baldwin and Pink Lady plenty of time to get home and reestablish security.

Pink Lady started, “I am disappointed, Sgt Yeggs.  Scrambled insisted on not being here.  And since Scrambled is family, almost, you could have called me directly.  You did not have to use him as a go between.  I miss Scrammie so.  It hurt when he said that this was just for you two in regard to that homicide in the alley.  And personally, I know nothing.  I spend most of my day in the bottling plant or the cider house, but I never have occasion to look behind the dumpster.  I have people who dispose of the trash.”  I wondered if she considered Randy Manley to be trash.

I replied, “Well, when one of our beat cops came to your door, Baldwin said that anything further would require a warrant.  Usually, we interview all in the area who may have seen what was going on around the place where the body was found or the place where the murder occured.  Anything, maybe even something innocent looking.  That would include your Lily the Pink operations, the apartment complex that can only be entered by security key or the walkway from your home, and the home itself.  All we want to ask is whether anyone saw anything going on in the alley.  Do you have any security footage in the area?”

Pink Lady smiled, “Baldwin has edited the footage of the area shot including the dumpster, copied the important period, no editing tricks.  He has the date/time stamp on the video, but it will not help much.  The body was dumped in the middle of the night by two people, dressed in sweats, hoodies, ski masks, and sunglasses.  If the alley wasn’t well lit, they would have not been able to see with the glasses on.  You might get a general build if they didn’t wear padding to look heavier.  They stooped over, even when walking out of the shot without the body, but you gentlemen are smart.  You can probably get a good estimate of height.  That’s it. About two ten in the morning.  They walked from the next block over.  You probably already know that there are no security cameras on that street.  They probably knew that.  That’s probably why they parked there, but that should tell you something.  What does that say about where the murder was perpetrated?”

“If they didn’t leave from the apartment building or the house to go to the other street and walk back, it says that the murder took place somewhere other than the premises of Pink Lady Enterprises.”

“I will let your slur regarding information that Baldwin has not prepared for you to slide.  On all other camera feeds, outside the buildings only, how far back should we go to show that no dead body was carried out of our buildings.  We had no deliveries that night.  I will hook your computer person up with a modem link so that you can track operational data on the cider operations: who was working, when the last delivery and shipment was before, when the first delivery and shipment was afterward.  Anything beyond that, and access will be blocked.  How much before?”

I chuckled, “Make it three hours.  I won’t give you our estimated time of death.  We keep as much as we can close to the vest, but then, was the murder on the adjacent street or a few miles away and then brought here?  And why would the murderer implicate you?  Could it be a power struggle within the Apples of the city?”

Pink Lady smiled, ignoring the questions, “Deviled, you bother me.  You have not asked me why we are meeting here in this place.  You have not been taking notes like Jim Wednesday over here.  You are playing this a little too cool.  When I see you again, you will have a large notebook, one of those moleskin things, so that you can take plenty of notes.”

I laughed, “I am sorry if this looks too casual.  I was captivated by your beauty and kind of forgot to take out a pen and paper.  You intrigued me when you picked this exact spot.  I was trying to avoid the question, but since you brought it up?”

Pink Lady turned to Baldwin, “Can you believe this guy, Baldy?  He has the most beautiful wife in all of Tracy.  I am almost a full ten years older.  And he wants me to think that he is captivated by my looks.”  She turned back to me.  “Deviled, I know how lovely your wife is because I have video of her naked on this grassy knoll, that is until you threw a blanket around her and hugged her until she calmed down.  Do you want me to tell you what I think her beauty mark looks like and where it is located?”  She laughed.

I did not laugh.  I cleared my throat to make sure I could still talk.  “Your jewelry is some of the loveliest pieces that I have ever seen, very much different to anything I have ever seen anywhere else.  The designer must be one of a kind.  Where did you come by such lovely jewelry?”

Pink Lady’s mirth turned to anger.  I had not violated the rules of our meeting, but I may have ended it.  “You little piece of pond scum, I think you know where I got this jewelry.  They are the only pieces of fine jewelry that I own.  I have put every other penny into Lily the Pink.  I have had this jewelry for a long time.  To finish our business, be better behaved when you come by day after tomorrow and be prepared to interview the ladies that Baldwin felt gave unsatisfactory answers to his questions or admits they saw something.  You will interview them in my office under my supervision, no body cam inside the house.  Everyone else was accounted for or did not see anything.  You will have to trust me on that.  And just you, Deviled.  No one else.  Jim over here seems more observant, but I want you alone.”

Then she turned from her angry dagger look to a look that made me think she was a lot older than she was.  “I’m sorry, Deviled, I am rarely tested, and you are a good adversary.  I was being catty, and you hit a nerve that you knew too much about.  Now, when you see Scrambled again, tell him that I owe him more than I could ever repay.  I wish desperately that I had done things differently back then.  You and I might be related, and I might have had a totally different career path.  Scrambled comes by once each week.  He and Baldwin play poker, just for bragging rights.  They don’t even keep score.  Why bother playing when you do not keep score?  I offered a couple of the girls to play with them and they could play strip poker.  I am not running that kind of business but Scrambled still refused.  He just wanted to play poker with an old friend and talk.  But why?  No money changing hands?  No chips?  No playing for peanuts.  Just conversation.  That’s not the old Scrambled that I know.  He has changed a lot in the past year.  Please, tell me.  Does he have a terminal illness?  Does he need money for an operation?  I’ll pay.  I’ll get him the best doctors.  Please, find out what is wrong with your brother.  He hardly even says hello anymore.  I know that you care, Deviled.  Scrammie always said you were a choir boy.  I hope you’ve been reading your Bible lately.  Having a Bible with you comes in handy.”

As we thanked her and stepped away from the picnic table, she had tears in her eyes.  She is only six years older than I, but Baldwin had to lift her from the picnic table, and he carefully walked her to her SUV.

After they left, Jim said, “Now’s the time.  What is this about her and Scrambled or is it Scrammie?”

I sighed and stared around the park, trying to find the window that might have taken the video.  What confederate did Pink Lady have that lived here?  And why has Pink Lady waited until now to use that information?

“Pink Lady Apple is Red Delicious’ niece.  Her father was an enforcer for the Rotten Apples and was sent to prison on a double-murder charge.  He probably was paid well for a few other murders that were done before our time and never solved.  Before he was caught, he built the huge home in the rich part of town and built the warehouse behind it, probably for chopping cars.  He is still in prison and is Red Delicious’ right-hand man on the inside.  When Pink Lady graduated high school, her mother disappeared, leaving Pink Lady, at 16-17 years old. Pink Lady was a super smart girl, but I think her mother pushed her to finish a year early. But the mother had deeded Pink Lady with the home and the warehouse before she skipped town.  The apartment building was owned by someone else and when Pink Lady started her business, Red Delicious bought the apartment building and built the covered walkways to connect all the buildings.  That way, from outside surveillance you never knew which building a person might be in.  I think they probably have tunnels as well.  But for a few years, Red Delicious doted on his niece and allowed her to ‘find herself.’

“Meanwhile, Scrambled was a junior in high school and he wanted to do some thievery – try out the skills he had been taught.  He roamed some backyards a few blocks from Pink Lady’s home, still in the rich part of town.  He met a girl sunbathing by her pool.  He jokingly asked if she would give him a tour of her home.  The girl asked, according to Scrambled and he fails to tell the truth on occasion, she asked if he wanted a tour of the home or a tour of her.  He was too dumb to have even thought of that option, but after they were done in bed, she told him that the tryst was once and done, because Scrambled was a low life.  They had classes together.  She knew the family reputation.  But Scrambled pulled the same routine with another girl a few days later, sunning by the pool and then in bed with Scrambled.  I tell you.  Scrambled is dumb as a board, but he makes up for it in being lucky.  The second girl wanted nothing to do with him afterwards just like the first and for the same reason, but she knew someone who was lonely, no father, abandoned by her mother, uncle too busy to visit regularly.  This third girl was like the others, sitting next to the pool.  Scrambled went through his idiotic routine, by this time thinking he was far more manly than he was.  He thought he had a winning routine since it had worked twice.  She said that she wanted jewelry first, then they could play.  Scrambled, having been to the other two girls’ houses had seen enough to know where to go.  He also knew our Dad’s old friends, including the fence and the jeweler.  The third girl was bold and had given Scrambled her sizes, ring size, bracelet size, and such.  As the jeweler finished a piece that was exotic looking, Scrambled having a little say in how the pieces looked, he presented it to his new girlfriend and the two of them went to bed.”

Jim interrupted, “So, all her jewelry that she wore today came from Scrambled?”

“Yep.  Scrambled never learned how to go on a proper date.  He had run through all the jewelry that he stole with only the wedding and engagement rings left.  Then he went to Pink Lady’s home, hoping to propose, by this time a senior in high school, and he was barred from entry.  She wanted nothing more to do with him according to the muscle at the door.  Her new boyfriend had given her a Maserati and Scrambled could not compete with that.”

Jim asked, “Baldwin?  Probably a stolen Maserati.  But they are both Apples?”

“Jim, you are sharp today.  They are far enough apart as cousins to not make it too awkward, but really, Red Delicious was keeping tabs on the love affair between Scrambled and Pink Lady.  He proposed the business plan to her, and she jumped at the chance.  She was basically prostituting herself already, for jewelry instead of cash.  Scrambled first befriended Baldwin just to be near Pink Lady, but when he figured that Baldwin had not stolen her away from him, they became lifelong buddies.  Baldwin has been her bouncer since day one.”

“So, you are going in alone in two days?”

“If I want to find out what is going on, I have to.”

Credits

For the credits regarding Lily the Pink, refer to the previous Deviled Yeggs post, A New Home for Rotten Apples.

Bess Trueblue is in honor of Tess Trueheart who married Dick Tracy.

As for Chinese hotels, they are not all the same, most quite reputable on the surface, but some are run by organized crime in P. R. China.  They run the gambling, usually with strippers from Russia, or so I have been told.  The concierge runs the prostitution.  When they see a foreigner who is male and alone in a room (but with no forms to fill out), the girls will call on the phone at all hours of the night, since your body says it is daytime back home (jet lag).  I simply hung up when they called me, and sometimes, it was once each hour all night long.  Once, a girl knocked on my hotel room door begging, “mah-sah-geeeeee,” for about an hour while I did not answer the door, until the concierge came by and carried her away.  I saw her, fully dressed, through the peep hole.  She probably got the wrong room number.  She was dressed like you might think a Chinese prostitute would dress, a silk bathrobe, decorative cap, and stockings, all black with yellow and red trim and, of course, embroidered dragons.  She was possibly in her late teens or twenties.  I think it was 1:00am to 2:00am, but a full hour of knocking, saying her one-word plea, and crying.

But when the company I worked for did better research, the prostitution racket was much more subtle in the subsequent hotels.  It still existed even in the American and European hotels in China, but you had to show interest in a massage, or they left you alone.

In Thailand, there was a massage office in the midst of the amenity offices (tailor, barber shop, etc. in a hall off the lobby, but the massage office was just an office to request a massage.  I was told that a massage in your hotel room meant you wanted “everything” and to prevent “everything” you asked to have the massage in the courtyard next to the pool.  With so many witnesses next to the pool, they only did the massage.  I did not think I needed a massage under either circumstance.

The “old mountain and Muhammad thing” is a saying from a Sir Francis Bacon essay, If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.”

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