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 and unaccounted for.
But I was under instructions to do this next part alone anyway.
On request of Pink Lady Apple, I enquired of Scrambled’s health. My brother said that other than type 2 diabetes that he had under control, although he hated the food he had to eat, he was in great shape. But in going to Pink Lady’s house, the more he saw of the prostitution side of things and knowing that Pink Lady was in charge, the sicker he got. Then, after Fuji and Ginger Gold Apple left town, Baldwin’s conversation rambled in the area of pure fantasy. Here he was hired muscle, the bouncer at a brothel. But he claimed to run the brothel. He told Scrambled that he had designs on taking over the entire Rotten Apple Gang. Scrambled was starting to lose interest in even playing cards with Baldwin. Everything about the mess at the Lily the Pink brothel was disgusting, although he thought Lily the Pink, the medicinal compound, tasted pretty good – in moderation. Hmmm. I did not know that Scrambled, or is it Scrammie, knew what moderation was. As far as looking and feeling “off”, Scrambled did not know if he was getting old, or mellowing in his old age, or growing up, or simply becoming apathetic.
The videos that Baldwin gave us were as Pink Lady had said. Two men in sweat suits and hoodies and every kind of mask, glasses, etc. carefully placed the body and then leaving through a gate into another alley. George Evident was supposed to be off for a few hours, but he went by the houses one block over to ask around a second time. I thought, ‘Maybe by the time I return, he’ll have something.’
Before I went into Lily the Pink’s brothel, I took inventory: No body cam by request, a large moleskin notebook with a hidden pocket which was empty, and in my pocket was a Gideon New Testament, just in case. I could not remember any other instructions or hints Pink Lady had given me, but those were strange enough.
The frisking took hardly any time at all. I was invited into the foyer. A beautiful living room was to the right. There were several ladies there, fully dressed, looking at me nervously. I was ushered through a door to the left. It looked like a dining room from the size and shape, with a back door that probably led to the kitchen, but as for furniture, it was strange. Half the room was an office with floor to ceiling bookcases, and a huge mahogany desk, a few desk chairs in front of the desk, and a smaller desk with her laptop to the side. The other side of the room had a canvas wardrobe (some kind of portable closet) and a day bed. Nothing at all fancy. Even a plain comforter and pillow coverings, all white. No lace, no ruffles. It reminded me of the bed coverings at the mission, but the mission’s linens had some color to them. Pink Lady was sitting in what looked like a recliner, almost in the transition area between opulent office and stark bedroom. She had a walker by her side.
Pink Lady smiled, “I am so glad you brought a notebook to take notes. Please sit behind the desk. You are in charge of the interviews. I am simply here to observe. Today, Baldwin is busy everywhere else at the facilities. The apartments require maintenance, and we have a couple of delivery trucks that need loading. I will supervise this endeavor. I hope the police find the murderer so we can get our business back up to full speed.”
I knew what she meant. The bottling plant was still bottling elixir, but the prostitution side of things was suffering. Many of their clients did not want the police watching them come and go. As I sat at her desk, I saw an old Bible opened in the middle of the desk, King James Version. It was facing me. The page looked very worn. The entire Bible was well worn, obviously read a lot. If this was Pink Lady’s doing, she used a highlighter and a pen to underline and make comments in the margins. She had visited that passage of Scripture many times. It was Joshua 6; she had Joshua 6:23 highlighted and underlined. “And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel.” In the margin, she had written, “Where are my young spies? When will God deliver me? Oh, how I pray for that day.”
I was startled. I looked toward her. She made eye contact. Then she closed her eyes and nodded. Behind her, in the window, there was a scarlet cord. It looked like the drawstring for the drapes, but the end of the cord went through the window, so that if any of us outside the building who knew our Scriptures, we would have known she needed deliverance. I questioned if I had everything figured backwards.
When she realized that I had spotted the cord, she said, “Don’t lose my place, but you can set that old book aside.”
As I lifted the Bible, a slip of paper fell from inside the Bible into my lap. I caught it between my legs. By this time, I had guessed that Baldwin only trusted her because he had the room bugged and a camera somewhere. I looked at the slip of paper and it was carefully folded with the words written on top, “Please, Help me” in clear view. I slid the paper underneath the notebook that I had brought. As I asked her how she was doing, starting a little small talk, I slipped the slip of paper into the hidden compartment of the moleskin notebook, keeping both the paper and the notebook beneath the desk, away from any security or spy cameras. There would be plenty of time to see what she had written later.
When I placed the notebook on the table and asked if the first interview could be started, she pressed a button on the arm of her chair. At that moment, I realized that her chair was a lift chair for the elderly, and it had the same type of controls that hospital beds have: television, seat adjustments for reclining and lifting, and a nurse call button. In this case, the call button summoned the first witness. She had asked about Scrambled’s health, but after she needed assistance walking to her SUV two days before and now this, I wondered about her health.
A lovely lady came into the room wearing her cider house coveralls. Of course, they were pink. I had noticed that about half of the ladies in the living room were wearing their work coveralls and the other half were wearing casual clothing. No one was skimpily dressed. She introduced herself and sat down in front of the desk.
I had my opening line well practiced. “I am Detective Staff Sergeant Deviled Yeggs from the Tracy Police Department. I work homicide. I am only here to gather information about the dead body found behind the dumpster. If you confess to me anything other than what you know about the dead body or the people that dumped the dead body, I will not bother writing it down. I am strictly only interested in information that leads to apprehension of the killer or killers. I understand that the ladies that I will be interviewing are either those who said that they saw something unusual, out of the ordinary, or they gave evasive answers when Baldwin questioned you. If that evasive answer means that you did not want Baldwin knowing what you were doing, and nothing to do with the deceased, then you can simply avoid answering. I do not want you in trouble with Baldwin or Pink Lady.”
Without even asking a question, the lady said, “I was working at the cider house that night on the graveyard shift. I like that shift. I heard a noise near the dumpster. I looked out the window. That area is well lit. We get truck traffic during our shift, incoming material and outgoing bottles, but not a lot. I saw two men, dressed in black, walking away from the dumpster. One of them removed his gloves and placed his hand on the gate leading to the alley access to one street over, Paree Place. I think what he was saying was something about how he could not get the gate latch open without removing his gloves.”
We had only gotten smudges off the gate. The rest of what she said was idle chit-chat, nothing that led to more information other than the guy’s voice was strange, as if he was not from the Tracy area.
Most of the other statements were about the same, mostly less of what the first lady had seen. The interviews lasted all morning. One of the ladies said that she had avoided Baldwin’s questions because she had seen the two men, but her reason for being in a place where she could see them was that she was helping her “boyfriend” leave the apartment building without setting off any alarms. Obviously, she was doing freelance “work” off the company books and that was against company policies. Pink Lady and I swore that her secret was safe. When she left, Pink Lady looked at me, shrugged, rolled her eyes, and said, “Oh, dear.” The witness had not admitted to being a prostitute, using a euphemism of “boyfriend” instead. I tried to not laugh.
Other than the secret note, this had mostly been a waste of time, other than it seemed that the Lily the Pink organization was trying to cooperate with the police, minimally. As I saw myself out of Pink Lady’s office, Baldwin stopped me. He thumbed through the notes in my notebook, basically confirming what he had been told. The embarrassing bits or violations of company policy were not written down.
Then Baldwin picked up the notebook by the edges and shook it to see if there was a loose slip of paper between a couple of unused pages. Since the slip of paper was in the hidden envelope, it did not slip out, and Baldwin obviously did not know to look for it. My ticking time bomb of evidence, or so I hoped, was still safe.
On the way back to the precinct, George Evident called me on my cellphone. He found a pregnant woman on Paree Place that had not been there the first time he had canvassed that street. She had been at a doctor’s appointment. At the precise hour that the two men in black sweat suits returned to their car, she had to go to the bathroom. She heard them talking. She thought she recognized the voice of the one getting into the passenger seat, but the one getting into the driver’s seat took his snow cap off. She thought he looked like someone who had been on television, but never at the podium, like an assistant to a local politician or one of the sign language people. George thought that might sound like Grieves, Beaux Lightly’s valet. It made sense; the cider house worker said one of them sounded like someone that was not from Tracy. Grieves had a well-practiced British accent to promote the concept of Beaux Lightly being aristocratic. The accent was fake, but he might not be able to turn it off readily since he used it almost all the time. But this line of thinking might be the wrong rabbit hole. Besides, it might just make the investigation extremely difficult, worse than it already was.
When I returned to the office, I called Captain Hart, Lt. Tagliolini and Jim into my “office” to open the slip of paper. Pink Lady had written:
Be my young spy that saves me and my family.
Baldwin is really in charge of prostitution, was from the start.
I have run the Lily the Pink cider operation, but I have only been the face of the illegal stuff.
I am a prisoner in my own home.
I have information on many of my cousins. I know who claims to have murdered Randy Manley. I think they planted the body to get me out of the picture.
But Baldwin is poisoning me slowly, but I have ladies I can trust.
Get a warrant tomorrow afternoon. Use the new female judge.
The leaks are any of the male judges. Lois Lipps, the secretary at City Hall working for Organized Crime division, has loose lips. Max Blabber of Vice cannot be trusted. Otherwise, you may be safe. I know of no others.
In two days, the outside security cameras will go offline at 6:00am as well as the alarms. Stay out of sight until then. When you see the door open and someone place a scarlet cord around the doorknob, come in without knocking and silently. The greeter at the door, a lady from security, will hand you locations to set up room entries, again, no talking. Have everyone wearing a body cam and at least twenty teams, two people each in all locations other than the den, a larger team for the den. The den in back next to the patio and pool is where the killer will be. He will be trying to set himself up as the new head of the Rotten Apples with Baldwin as a figurehead, needing a true Apple in that position. There will be at least ten Rotten Apples plus the person who wants to be the boss and his assistant. All other locations will be local politicians who will be guaranteed to be in a position that is unbecoming of an elected official when the door is opened. All those girls can be trusted to perform at just the right time.
And I need Scrammie. Deputize him if you must, but the poison is weakening my ability to stand and walk. I will be in my office. Tell Scrammie to bring a wheelchair to the room he knew to be the dining room. It has been my prison cell for years. If something goes wrong and Baldwin kills me. I want to die in Scrammie’s arms.
You can arrest all of us. I would prefer that those in the cider house are left to work their shift and beyond, but of those that help me set this raid up, I want some consideration given to their assistance, after the fact.
As for me, I will freely answer any questions, even if they incriminate me. We may be able to do far more than just catch a murderer. If that twerp in Organized Crime does not screw things up, I can make him a captain.
Give me the two days, please. It will take me that long to ensure everyone is in the right position, any longer and you may have a powerful crime boss to deal with.
Secrecy and silence are a must. Please, be faithful, my young spy.
It was signed by Pink Lady.
The Captain asked, “What’s this business about a spy saving her and her family? What’s this business of a scarlet cord?”
I laughed, “Funny how you pointed to the two references to Joshua 6. She had her Bible turned to that chapter, displayed immediately in front of me. It was where the prostitute, Rahab, and her family are saved while everyone else in Jericho lost their lives. The spies that Rahab had protected returned to bring her and her family to safety with her home marked by a scarlet cord. Her Bible was nearly worn to shreds. It seems she read it a lot. It would take us too long to verify the information in this note and almost assuredly tip someone off in the process, but we can get the warrant based on her statement here and the evidence that we have on the murder.”
Captain Hart said, “Let’s do this. We can hold Lois Lipps and Max Blabber under suspicion for only 24 hours, but if we keep this within this room and Gisele to do the typing, we can hold them starting tomorrow morning before we get the warrant, by the time we release them, it would be too late, even if they knew our plans. From what you two tell me, Bess Trueblue is ready to make a splash, and this sounds right.”
Lt. Tagliolini asked, “I know that I am the twerp of this operation, but to make this work, we need every available cop we can find. With so many out sick and the need to run each precinct and the need to get overtime approval from the very city officials that we might arrest… How?”
Captain Hart waved his hands, “We have options. Tuesday Wednesday probably has people she can trust in Stout County. I don’t know about Doyle County, but we must maintain as much secrecy as possible while getting people to come in. Too many phone calls can ruin the whole thing.”
“We have people that would come in without pay just to be part of it, and I do not think that Hugh McAdoo’s deputizing has an expiration. We can get the people.” I suggested.
The obtaining of the warrant had one little problem. Bess Trueblue included the hotel in Doyle County. She wanted a clean sweep, and she could insist on it since she was a District judge. That left no one who could help in the Pink Lady raid from Doyle County, and there was no special set-up for a hotel raid. The scary thing was that we had no idea who might leak the information in Doyle County. But then, we could have the Doyle raid mobilize after we had struck and before anyone could warn the hotel manager, who we found out was one of the first people to work at Pink Lady’s house.
The raid itself worked perfectly. Pink Lady had arranged the schedule to have the women that wanted out of prostitution working in the cider house. Those entertaining the city officials knew the timing to ensure the officials were caught… ummm … with their pants down. Most of them wanted out of prostitution also. Two of her trusted friends were in security, both on duty to ensure that the cameras and alarms going offline would not be reported to Baldwin and that the scarlet cord would be placed on the doorknob after the doors were unlocked.
And as for the meeting in the den, Beaux Lightly was on camera, a camera that security “forgot” to turn off, bragging about shoving water lily root down Randy Manley’s throat while Grieves held him down. Then they rolled him over, face down, until they were sure he was dead. That had allowed lividity to set. The mayor had used a wooden spoon to ramrod enough down for Manley to croak. Manley was blackmailing Lightly regarding his connection to the Rotten Apples. It was as Pink Lady had said. He wanted control of the Rotten Apples. He thought Pink Lady was his chief competitor for the boss bad Apple, and she was an Apple. He felt his political career might be over if voter reform went into law and thus eliminated the cemetery voters, and he had plans, as long as Baldwin became the leader among the Apples and Lightly was the “silent” partner. Silent, in that he might even become governor. People outside Tracy had no idea no one liked him.
As we entered the room, only one of the Apples made a move for a weapon, but before we could warn him to not move any further, the kitchen door opened, and the chef shot him in the back with a taser. It was our only resistance during the raid.
And in Pink Lady’s office, Scrambled tried to get Pink Lady to agree to make a run for it while everything else was in a state of confusion. She refused. She wanted to be arrested, but she hoped that with her testimony she would not face jail time. She contended that she had allowed her face to be used as well as her home, but she had only offered the prostitutes the chance to do some legitimate work in the cider house on the side, otherwise no dealings on the illegal side. Red Delicious refused to think that her legitimate business would take off, but it had. And she also confessed that Scrambled was the only man she had ever gone to bed with. Too bad Scrambled could not claim such fidelity with two sons from another woman. He said that it was a shame that she would never have any children of her own, and she said, “Scrammie, I still have tricks up my sleeve.”
Once the doctors confirmed the poison, they said that Pink Lady would possibly get worse, short-term, but then make steady improvement. She would not be running in a marathon for years to come, and only with a lot of therapy. Recovery would be slow. She would need someone with her most of the time. Scrambled volunteered.
For the credits regarding Lily the Pink, refer to the previous Deviled Yeggs post, A New Home for Rotten Apples.
Paree Place. A Dick Tracy villain, “Sketch” Paree, was a fashion designer and killer (August 1949 to September 1949). He designed a water mask, a mask containing water, that was used to drown his victims. Since Randy Manley was killed by choking on too many water lilies, it seemed to fit.
My mother had a rule that you must eat the food on your plate. That works when you put the food on your own plate, but she always filled my plate with things she knew I hated. Once, I took a stand against squash (hating the texture when grossly overcooked) and while my Dad put me in a head lock, my mother shoved squash down my throat using the handle of a wooden spoon. I did not choke, but I thought this a good way to get rid of Randy Manley. And if you are wondering, I refuse to eat squash to this day. There is something psychological there that I choose not to deal with.
And Pink Lady calls Lt. Tagliolini a “twerp.” “Twerp” may have started as “dwarf” in the 1800s. But the US etymology of the word shows that what is now known as an insignificant person may have its roots with twerp meaning someone who is easily manipulated. Thus, Pink Lady is saying that if he doesn’t make captain as a result of the information that she gives him, it probably means that the Rotten Apples have manipulated him and then, her life will be in danger.