I’m Detective Staff Sergeant Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. My partner is Jim Wednesday. Poached Yeggs is back in the office, but I came in early, over an hour early.
My wife, Glyce, had one of her nitro-Glyce-rin moments in the night, a nightmare this time. I calmed her down with a big bear hug, my standard move in such situations. As she trembled, I kissed her forehead. By the time she was asleep, I was wide awake. I texted Pauline Niblick to be prepared to teach her classes. I turned the alarm off. I drew the blackout blinds, and I let my wife sleep. With nothing better to do, I came to work. I left a note for Easter to fix breakfast for his siblings and please, do not wake their mother.
As I was half awake, I flipped the light on in my office. What I saw nearly caused me to jump out of my skin.
Pink Lady Apple was sitting in my interviewee chair, arms crossed, looking at me. Her walker was laying flat in the middle of the floor.
Once I gathered my senses, “Pink Lady, it is a pleasure to see you here, but why are you sitting in the dark? And so early?”
Pink Lady huffed, “You are a detective. Do you know how to detect? I am sitting here, and the light switch is over there.”
“So that means that today you are having a bad day and you cannot walk.”
She smiled, “So you can detect. I thought I could make it to the switch using the walker, but I lost my grip as I was struggling to stand. I flopped back into the chair, luckily, instead of the floor, but the walker fell out of reach.”
I was still confused. “But you were supposed to be at Lt. Tagliolini’s interview room giving more evidence. He usually is not at his office at City Hall until much later. Why in my office at this hour in the dark?”
“You are not read into the big bust aftermath. He wants as few witnesses as possible until they get a handle on things. His interrogations start in the middle of the night, about 4:00am. After dropping me off at that time, Scrambled took Rotten with him to the far western end of the state for the capture of someone who skipped their court appearance. He got a strong lead on that pastor who was arrested for skimming money from the offering plate. Scrambled found out that while the preacher was out on bail, he set up a church out west and is probably doing the same thing again. So, they are hours from here, but then again, my cellphone is in my purse which is attached to the walker that I cannot reach. This morning at City Hall, the twerp came into the interview room. … And Deviled, I am trying to not call him a twerp, but ‘Lt. Twerp’ is the best I can do. Honest! … Anyway, I was having one of my moods and I told Lt. Twerp that if I did not have a day off to start my physical therapy, I may never walk again. He nodded and without a word, he drove me here. Placed me in this chair. And then as he left the room, he said ‘Night, night.’ And flipped the light switch off.”
“So, you have been here for about two hours in the dark in an uncomfortable chair? Yep, he’s a twerp.”
Pink Lady actually laughed at that. “Thank you, we finally have agreement on one point.”
I smiled, “And while you want me to detect, since I am a detective, I have some curiosity questions. Nothing about legal matters, but then maybe … but I won’t tell.” She nodded that I could continue, “You sent your baby to a monastery, but your background does not sound very Catholic, or even church-going. And what of the well-worn Bible?”
Pink Lady closed her eyes for a moment, thinking of her upbringing. “I had no idea what a prayer was growing up. We never had a Bible in the house. I never heard the words ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ unless in a cuss word in one of my father’s angry rages or muttered under my mother’s breath. I never saw a church from the inside, and still not ‘til this day. If you would have told me about Jesus dying for my sins, I would have no clue who Jesus was, what a sin was, or whether I had ever committed any.” I nodded understanding. In evangelism discussions at church, we talk of those who have that type of upbringing growing exponentially these days. “But when we moved into the mansion that I now own, my mother taught me to be nice to other people because she was afraid that the neighbors in the rich part of town would find out we did not belong there. She especially feared that they would find out that we became their neighbors by my father killing people.” She pulled a slip of paper out of her purse, now that I retrieved her walker for her, and handed the slip of paper to me. “That is a list of four people that were killed by my father. Those are the only ones that he mentioned in my presence that I can remember. I am sure they are all cold cases. You might get him to admit that he did it, except for the member of the leafy greens. That might start a gang war, thirty years after the fact if that became public. My father is going to die in prison anyway. You can close a few more cases. … Where was I? Oh, yes. I had to be nice so that the neighbors would think we deserved to be there. But a lot of those neighbors got there by criminal or near criminal means also. More on that another day. So, when my girlfriends in the neighborhood became sexually active, I was the celibate, shy, wallflower, trying to act ‘good’ even though I had no idea what good was.”
She continued, “Then a wonderful teacher pulled us rich girls aside in my junior year of high school. My father was already in prison. The neighbors knew by then where our money came from, but I was still putting on the act of pretending to be good. The teacher was especially worried about me because she knew who my father was and who my uncle was. But she also knew how the other girls were being raised. She thought we needed a field trip to learn how life had a purpose other than spending daddy’s money. That year, the field trip went to the monastery. The teacher spent her time with the abbot. They roamed from room to room as each of us girls worked with our assigned monk, helping him with his duties. This was the first and last time the teacher, Miss Debbie, ever went to the monastery. It was the last because two of the girls exposed themselves to their monk counterparts and we had to leave early. Since I was Miss Debbie’s special case, I was assigned to the prior. I learned that the abbot was in charge and the prior was next. In the hubbub of being kicked out, the prior handed me a King James Bible. He said something about having a few to give out to special people and he thought I was one. I didn’t learn until later that there are differences in the King James and the Catholic Bible, but I had no idea then that there was any difference in Christian churches. I accepted the book. He said it was a special book, and it might help me in times of trouble. But what we had been working on showed me how the monks had purpose in their lives. Sadly, he never had time to explain that further. He gave me the book instead. Not having had that experience anywhere else, I thought they would be the best fathers that Boaz could ever have.”
I asked, “And did you start reading the Bible when you brought it home?”
Pink Lady laughed, “I was sixteen. I only read my homework assignments at sixteen. … But about a year later, with my mother gone, packed and gone while I was at a friend’s graduation party, leaving a note that simply said. ‘good-bye’, I remembered the book that the prior had given me. I figured that returning home to an empty house and having to fix my own supper was ‘times of trouble.’ I read it through as if it was a history book, but then parts were poetry, parts were moral teaching, it was not just a book of history. Deviled, I have read that book countless times since. With nothing else to do, it only takes a few weeks. Less time if you don’t do anything except read, but my eyes would get tired. I wanted to understand, but I had no one there to help me. I had my dictionary in the other hand to explain words like ‘prayer’. I was that lost.”
She paused and smiled, “It was about that time when Scrambled walked into my backyard. A friend said that she had given him my address, but she said nothing about the circumstances. I found that out later. I figured that he would forget about it, but there he suddenly appeared. He talked about how I could either have him explore my home or he could explore me. Some demon arose inside me. Red Delicious had told me that I had to figure out how to make money. Uncle Delly, which he insisted on as his nickname, rejected my idea of making hard apple cider. It became obvious that Uncle Delly would only accept me in a criminal enterprise. I thought that an underaged girl making an alcoholic beverage was outside the law enough, but he didn’t agree. Then this son of a safe cracker waltzed into my life. … Yes, I knew who Scrambled was and how he would get jewelry for me. I looked him up and down and told him that I would not have him exploring me, maybe never. Then, Scrambled dropped his pants. I had only seen photographs, but what I saw suddenly became interesting, strangely desirable. Maybe I became insane for a moment. I gave him my jewelry sizes. I said that if he got me jewelry, we might have some ‘exploration’ when he returned. He had the audacity to say that if he did not see what he was getting, he was not coming back. So I untied a couple of knots and my bathing suit fell into the pool. I then jumped into the pool after my clothes. He pulled up his pants and walked away. Again, I did not think I would ever see him again until he showed up about two weeks later with a diamond bracelet. I had entered a verbal contract. I knew how he had obtained the jewelry. I knew who he had stolen the jewelry from, and the victims never reported the jewelry missing to the police. But a deal was a deal. And Scrambled was my first and only, although our affair lasted about a year.”
I interrupted, “But that brings up two more questions. Did you ever get to the point of believing and trusting in Jesus? And why have you not given the jewelry back?”
Pink Lady groaned, “There is no one to give the jewelry back to, and Scrammie had it changed so much they would never recognize it. Scrammie’s first conquest was the daughter of a banker. On one of her father’s foreclosures, the couple could not give up the family jewels when their business collapsed. The jewelry was handed down for generations. When the banker kicked them out of their home, having more than one mortgage using the home as collateral for the business, the banker found a king’s ransom in jewels in their safe, more than enough to save the man’s failing business. The banker slipped the jewels into his pocket and saved them for himself, not letting the bank know. Thus, the jewels were stolen. The people who had inherited and then lost the jewelry, drove south to find a new place to start over and died in a car crash. The banker then died of a heart attack. The banker’s daughter, the girl that Scrammie first mated with, if that term is okay, is the manager of the hotel in Doyle County that your friends over there arrested last week. Scrammie thought he was a woman slayer, but he lucked into the backyard of a girl who already had the mentality of a harlot. As for the second of Scrammie’s conquests, her father was an investment broker who stole from his clients. The jewels were given by a client who was convinced that more money meant more reward, when he was really shuffling empty shells around the table. He died in prison, and his daughter married a football player that made it big in the NFL and is presently a college football coach. So, all the jewelry was stolen, and the original owners are no longer alive, with no children. As for the Bible, I will admit that I quit reading it while Scrammie and I were ‘exploring’ one another, to use his words. By our third late afternoon in bed and he still in high school, never actually dating, I wanted to tell him that the jewelry was unnecessary, but something prevented me from saying anything – my greatest regret. I loved him. When Baldwin caught Scrammie and I in bed together a few months later, he told Uncle Delly how I was already making money on the side and the manner in which I obtained the jewelry. Uncle Delly took action. With Scrammie gone, and me finding out that I was pregnant and trapped in my own home, I went back to my reading of the Bible. But I will admit, I put my foot down and Uncle Delly could never say ‘no’ to me forever. He helped me build the cider operations and I kept two sets of books to ensure that my cider operations grew only from the profits thereof. And, yes, I kept my own books for both operations until Baldwin insisted on hiring a couple of accountants. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA, mostly through online learning after the first couple of years, but a few professors came to the house after I was imprisoned so that I could finish. Do not ask me if they obtained special consideration. That would be between them and Baldwin, but I would not think they would make that trip for one student without something extra. And since I was the Apple with an accounting degree, the cousins had me keep their records, which is why they will each be spending time at Uncle Delly’s vacation villa. I don’t just have stories to tell; I have the financial trail of breadcrumbs. Frankly, I think I have told Lt. Twerp enough stories, and he can get the rest from my files. I can answer questions, if he has any.”
I started taking notes, since she had been cross with me when I did not take notes previously. “But then, two more questions. How did you dream up the cider operations in the first place and how did you hide your pregnancy from Red Delicious?”
“Is this two questions at a time your interrogation technique? But the answers to those questions are simple.” Pink Lady chuckled. “I am an Apple. Making cider made sense, but I will admit that I experimented with the recipe until I found the right combination. And for hiding my pregnancy, I was one of those who was blessed to be pregnant without showing very much. As I did show, I started wearing loose clothing when Uncle Delly came around. I also slammed the door in his face on occasion. He knew that I was still angry that he made me the madam of a brothel as punishment for sleeping with a common thief. … No offense, Deviled.”
“None taken, and your one weak link was Baldwin knowing, but somehow, I do not think he knew where the baby went.”
Her eyes twinkled, “That was before the full imprisonment started. I could take a class at the college and go shopping on rare occasions if I had someone with me, and I took the chef with me and the baby. She was, at the time, about the only one I could trust. That group of trusted friends though saved my life. I must help them.”
“And your chef has been your faithful friend with her only job to cook for everyone on the property? For all those years?”
Pink Lady smiled and shook her head. “I thought that at first, but Baldwin said that if you live in the house or the apartment building and you have a contract to work there, you will entertain guests. He stipulated that without me knowing at first, but you know how girls talk. The girls that were hired to do legitimate things eventually found out what ‘entertaining’ meant. That means that as I was innocently hiring accountants, security personnel, a chef, custodians, and cider house workers, Baldwin was forcing them to prostitute themselves. Baldwin hired prostitutes or obtained when Uncle Delly used his muscle to shutdown all the prostitution enterprises in Tracy. I thought I was teaching those prostitutes how to make cider, but Baldwin was corrupting those who were not prostitutes. But they could have walked away, and they did not, probably afraid of what Baldwin might do. Baldwin has always been physically imposing. And as for when I started trusting Jesus, it was instantaneous when I realized that I was trapped and needed saving within this physical world, but the spiritual reality took reading the Scriptures countless times. I only had the one Bible. It had no cross references. And then once we had Internet access, Baldwin caught me going online to read Bible commentaries, and he had our IT lady limit my internet access. I was never able to befriend her. Please, Deviled, when this interrogation at City Hall is over, I want to join your Bible study. I have so many questions.”
I laughed, “That is a group decision for our small group. The group must vote to accept new members to not interfere with group dynamics, but I am sure they will agree. At the meetings, we pray. We sing hymns and worship songs. And we study the Bible, one evening each week, and then Glyce feeds everyone, a simple meal.”
Pink Lady asked, “Can I call her Naomi like your father does?”
“Sure, why not? But you might ask her first. She only accepts Glyce or Sweetie from me. I would make her nervous with anything else.”
At that moment, the door opened. Poached and Callie came into the office. Once they got over the shock of seeing Pink Lady there, Poached announced that a house warming party was in the works, but they wanted two details finished in their initial apartment in the corner of the warehouse, with the expansion to be added later. This corner that they were renovating into an apartment was the old offices for the warehouse. It had a ceiling, but it needed a dedicated HVAC system and the men’s and women’s rooms converted into a full bath.
Pink Lady asked, “Callie, I have heard through the grapevine that you did not want to get frisky with this young man until you married. Why is that?” Poached and I gasped at her directness.
Callie said, “Okay, you may be my mother-in-law soon, and Deviled is already my uncle by marriage. And Poached does not know all of it, so here goes. My father is a very legalistic Christian, stern, judgmental, a follower of rules, but no Joy, and absolutely no Grace. You follow the rules, at least the ones that make you look bad when you violate them, and you go to church on Sunday. To be honest, while at home, God and Jesus never came into conversation other than at the blessing of meals. When my three older brothers started dating, starting when I was nine years old, they asked to have their girlfriends come by the house to ‘study.’ My father, who was always out entertaining clients for his business gave my mother the rule – that was the usual arrangement, his rules, her enforcement – ‘Never allow them to close the door. That way with others in the house, they won’t do anything naughty.’ You would never hear my father say ‘sex.’ So, once my oldest brother got a little comfortable with the rare person walking past, he would make a move. The girl was getting used to the traffic and they both became blind to it. It took a while, but one thing led to another, and I walked by and gasped one day, a little too loudly. I had seen them in the act of love making. When they heard me gasp, they laughed. I ran. As the middle brother started doing the same thing down the hall, I walked down the hall one day and my oldest brother pulled me into his room. He told me about the middle brother doing it down the hall, so I had to stay there with him and his girlfriend. The middle brother’s girlfriend was not so ‘understanding’ about people watching. So, I was forced to watch the two love birds do all kinds of things to one another. I thought all of it was disgusting. When they occasionally came up for air, they would say that I should take notes, because I would someday soon be doing it too. I swore at the time that I never would. I guess I have violated that oath, but I guess I meant at the time that I would get married first. And Uncle Deviled, if you want to know, my two older brothers have both married and divorced twice, both about 35 years old. My other brother has three girlfriends and each of them is willing, for the time being, to keep the sharing arrangement with the other two. I do not know why, but it seems wrong. I think that is why I want to search for the meaning of life in the church, some purpose in life that my father never figured out.”
I rubbed my chin. “I have a great idea that I need someone to convince Glyce that it was her idea. We already host one small group Bible study each week. Let’s go to two Bible studies with the second one being family. It looks like we could fill the room at this point.”
With three visitors in my tiny office already and just having mentioned a filled room, Jim Wednesday, Captain Hart, and Gisele walked in, Gisele with pink donuts – strawberries in the icing. “Honest,’ Gisele said, “I got pink donuts so that I could have more for myself. You know that thing about manly men do not eat pink donuts. But then, I walk into a room with two ladies already there, and one of them named Pink! Back to only one donut for me, if I am that lucky. But before Callie and Poached leave. I need to hear the ‘naked in Florida’ story.”
Jim and Captain Hart chimed in that their only interest in entering the room was for the nitty-gritty details.
I exclaimed, “No details, Poached!”
Then Poached said, “But the nitty-gritty is part of the story.”
Pink Lady cleared her throat. “I’m with Sgt. Yeggs. The details may be embarrassing at family gatherings.”
Poached laughed, “You ran a brothel, and you must have seen naked ladies every day.”
“Young man, I did not run the brothel. That is clearly established in the evidence brought forward, but I insisted that all the girls would be fully clothed and presentable in the common areas. We were not giving away any sneak peeks. And the few girls that violated that rule had to leave with no severance check.”
Poached looked at the floor, “Yes ma’am, I understand.”
Callie then spoke up, “But to clear the air. I had been to the Everglades once before. I was doing master’s research the first time. I was with my female professor and thesis advisor. Our guide, who said he was part Native American, suggested that we ‘go native.’ I think my professor had an agreement with him to say that from what I heard after I got back. She stripped and never put any clothes on until we returned. The mud was to break our scent, but also to blend into the environment. For that trip, I wore a bikini. For our honeymoon, we went native the first week for the fun of it on a honeymoon, only putting on a swimsuit to meet the supply boat at the next island over. We got supplies and we dropped off photos to be uploaded to the college cloud. But then we both decided that enough was enough. We were back to wearing our swimsuits, until…”
Poached continued, “That’s where the nitty-gritty came in. The mud had to be clay, a smooth mud. The island, or technically a hammock, elevation just enough to support the life of the vegetation. But any sand, and the mud became gritty and it started to scratch. If you were not careful in selecting a good vein of clay, you ended up with mud that had some sand in it. Then the clothing, which was just a swimsuit, started to scratch and irritate in all the wrong places.”
Pink Lady and I shouted, “No details, please!”
The others laughed as they replied, “He doesn’t have to.” And Callie and Poached turned beet red.
Then Pink Lady began to cry. “Everyone, I tried to stay out of the prostitution business, but being who I was and the family that I was part of, I felt trapped. Callie confessed something before the crowd showed up that was very hard to confess. I know. The girls came to me, their adopted mother of sorts, although some were older than I. When things were not going the way they wanted, I heard their life stories. The stories they told were similar to Callie’s story when she was growing up. Most of them started with broken lives that became even more broken. Now, even upstanding people like the one’s in this room joke about sex, even honeymoon sex. The world needs to respect one another and treat each other with respect. If we did not have so many hang ups about sex and about nudity, caused by our own lust and sinfulness, we might be able to talk about sex without embarrassment, without making it a joke. Callie mentioned that she is going to church to find purpose in life. And I think I have found my purpose, just now. There were a lot of broken women under my employment. I want to help make them whole. God may be the only solution to complete wholeness, but, as a minimum, they need to know that they are not something that is sold to men. They need to know that having sex is not their entire worth.” She was spent. Gisele went to her and put her arms around her.
As the group separated to start their morning tasks, I explained Pink Lady’s dilemma to Captain Hart.
Callie had only come by to let us know that her father would not be killing Poached any time soon. She quickly left. Poached and his father-in-law were far from friends, but with the mess that her brothers had made of their young lives, Callie was his shining star and she had explained that chasing Poached off, would chase her off also. She also gave her father the idea that if he wanted to do so, he could press charges against her old roommates. Her father said that being kicked out of the apartment was punishment enough.
Captain Hart, knowing that Poached would have a hard time concentrating, was about to give Poached an assignment of taking his future stepmother to physical therapy, but then something happened that I was not expecting. My wife, Glyce, came into the room.
“Hello, everyone, my husband, as if he had the authority to do so, gave me the day off today. I missed some of the conversation from the observation room, but I have a better idea than Poached taking Pink Lady to therapy. My first degree was in physical therapy. I will take her to her appointment today and I will supervise. It will freak out the therapist, but he’ll get over it. If we can find grant money, and I think we can, we can use my department’s resources to create a case study in reviving a poison victim’s lower extremities back to life again. Maybe there is a Nobel Prize nomination in it. Probably not, but a lot of papers to write and conferences to address. Instead of a big prize, I will settle on being a bride’s maid when you walk down the aisle.”
Pink Lady exclaimed, “If you get me walking again, you might make it to Matron of Honor, but I might need a couple of those. Thank you, Naomi.”
Glyce turned to me, “And I have had an epiphany. It is my idea, and mine alone, but Deviled, you will have to do most of the work. Let’s have a family Bible study, just the Yeggs and future Yeggs. Okay?”
I asked, “How much did you overhear?”
“Enough, my detective that can detect.” and then she kissed me.
For twenty years, I was a training manager for an engineering company. The arrangement was almost always that I would bring donuts if the client had a supply of coffee and arranged for lunch. I had to do my research in advance to find the best donuts in a strange new town. I even got Top Pot donuts in Seattle, WA once – huge donuts, three or four times the size of a normal donut, but expensive when buying a few dozen. I usually asked for enough donuts so that there would be two for each trainee and each instructor, each day. But unless I knew of a favorite treat, I asked the shop to give me ‘so many dozen, assorted.’ Invariably, there would be a few dozen donuts and only 2-3 donuts with pink icing, usually strawberry flavored and occasionally with strawberry pieces in the icing. But also invariably, when lunch arrived, and I did some housekeeping to make room for the lunch buffet, the only donuts that would be remaining would be the pink ones, unless I had some ladies in the class who were not afraid to eat them. I talked to a client’s training manager in Oregon about my observations and he thought I was crazy, but he changed his mind when the same thing happened at his steel mill. Steel mill workers were manly men, and they might lose their manliness if caught eating a pink donut. But I have noticed that the sneaky manly men will eat the pink donuts when no one is watching – mid-afternoon.
“Going native” these days is assimilating into the community that you have moved into, picking up behaviors of the “indigenous” population. In the Pittsburgh area, it might be using a few “yinzer” words, like “Yinz.” A waitress might say something that sounds like “Hire Yinz,” but it means “You are you ones?” But the etymology of going native dates back to the early settlers who began to do everything that the Native Americans did, including marrying a Native American woman, dressing like the rest of the tribe, and becoming part of the tribe. Yet, when some get crazy notions, it could mean walking around without clothing at all, not even a loincloth.