I’m Detective Staff Sergeant Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. My partner is Jim Wednesday. But I am reporting for Sophie, our code-breaking daughter, or might I say the “GrandPa Whisperer” of the family.
But before we get to the story, a little background. The last report had Maeve Collins going down the hall of the ER at T.R.U.S.T (Tracy Regional University for Science and Technology) Medical Center to ER room 6 to sit with my Dad. Pink Lady Apple decided to follow her without Scrambled helping her walk. It was to be her test to see if she could walk far enough on her own and then stand on her own long enough to survive a wedding ceremony. Glyce had said that she was close in her therapy, and she only needed the confidence, which is one of the main reasons that Glyce supervised the therapy, to add that mental element to the physical, while encouraging the emotional and spiritual elements as well.
When Maeve reached my Dad’s side, she held his hand and whispered, “Thou (short for Thousand), I sensed you were about to ask me a question this morning before all this madness happened. You were poisoned and now you are fighting to come out of the coma. But I want you to know that I love you and the answer to your question is ‘Yes.’ ” My Dad remained in a coma, but at that moment, my Dad squeezed her hand.
Pink Lady shocked Maeve by stepping forward. Maeve did not know that she had been followed. “Maeve, if it is the question that you anticipate, would you like a double-wedding at the mission in June?”
Maeve exhaled, “He has not actually asked the question yet, but just for giggles, we could agree to that. We may be on an all-night vigil here. We might need something to talk about. We can plan a wedding that may never happen. The mission is our lives. We would love to get married there, but there is no way we could be prepared this quickly.”
Pink Lady smiled and pulled up a chair. “That’s why I am suggesting a double-wedding. I have already gotten my decorator working on the decorations and the flowers. It is all designed and some of it is already fabricated. My baker can bake four cakes instead of two. Two for the wedding cakes and two for the grooms’ cakes. We can get wild and crazy if you like. My baker is already planning a groom’s cake that resembles a banana split – not looking like one, but all the mix of flavors. Then again, maybe looking like a banana split, if he can pull it off. We could have two decadent cakes and a gluten free cake and a no-sugar added cake. Something for everyone.”
“We could not afford anything like that. We live from one donation to the next, and you have already given far more than your share to the mission.” Maeve sighed.
Pink Lady winked, “My treat. It will be Scrambled and my wedding present to you. Scrambled is the baker, by the way.”
Maeve leaned back in shock, “Scrambled Yeggs can bake?!”
Pink Lady laughed, “It is shocking. He has been relatively worthless until the last couple of years, but before his mother lost the bakery, Scrammie was old enough to learn a lot about the business from his mother. He has a lot of the recipes from her bakery. He has been experimenting on variations, new flavors. His decoration skills are barely passable, but my chef, Gwen Quinn, took some classes in cake decorating, but she was never much of a baker. The two are experimenting together. At least, I think they are experimenting. The kitchen is filled with laughter at any rate, and the finished product is very nice. With a variety of successful experiments, I am thinking of expanding Lily the Pink Enterprises to add a bakery. Rotten is helping when he can. He is taking “charm school” with Zuzka three days a week instead of two. He is working full time as night security at the truck entrance. And he works hard to clean up Scrammie’s old house, boxing up things to move to our house, but he spends the rest of the time in our kitchen with Scrammie and Gwen. He never takes a break, but I guess church and Sunday school are his break.”
Maeve shook her head, wondering what kind of family the Yeggs really were. “But I have no idea who to have as a wedding party. Who are you inviting?”
Pink Lady beamed, “My family is out. I will invite Ambrosia and Honey Crisp Apple to the wedding, but not as part of the wedding party. Most of my family that are my age are in jail or about to go to prison with me putting them there. Empire Apple is running the Rotten Apple Gang now, and I do not want him within ten blocks of the mission that day. So, that leaves the Yeggs. First up will be Sophie and Blaise. She will hate walking with her know-it-all brother, but she will be beautiful. Then since Jemima and Easter are nearly engaged themselves, they will be next. Then, Callie and Poached Yeggs, followed by Zuzka and Rotten (maybe called Otto by then – holding the print of that announcement to the last minute). Then, my matron of honor and her husband, Naomi (nicknamed Glyce which is short for nitroglycerin) and Deviled Yeggs, then my maid of honor, Gwen Quinn who has cooked for me and cleaned house since before the house was turned into a brothel. I have no idea who to have her walk with. I think Scrambled is going to ask Deviled to be his best man. I will come in with Thou, who is going to give me away in place of my father, at my father’s request. My father is in prison, you know, multiple homicides and the number of admitted homicides is increasing.”
Maeve cringed, “Yes, I know, but that leaves my husband in your wedding party.”
Pink Lady snickered, “That is what I have been thinking. The ceremony can get to the point of who gives this woman to be married to this man. After Thou says a few words, he would normally sit down, but he, being the second groom, could just slide over and then your wedding party walks down the aisle.”
Maeve shrugged, “I may be lucky to get my Dad to give me away. My family is not pleased with the situation. As for a maid of honor, I was thinking of the mission administrator and CEO, Dorothy Cahn. Everyone calls her ‘Dot Com.’ The mission has been my life and I never socialized that much in high school and college. All my old church friends have scattered and I never was very close to any of them.“
“Having Dot Com there sounds great! She already works at the mission, and we could share groomsmen and bride’s maids, since we are both marrying into the Yeggs family. And, to change the subject briefly, can you talk to Dot Com for me? I would love for her to talk about her life at a Lily the Pink company meeting. I am trying to find people to encourage my employees who are, for the most part, former prostitutes. As I have heard, Dot Com was a single homeless woman with four children when she came to the mission as a resident, and she worked her way up to CEO.” Pink Lady suggested.
Maeve corrected her, “She was pregnant with the fourth. She was never married, but she was never technically a prostitute. I think your ladies can relate though. I will work on her a little bit. I doubt if it will take much encouragement. Dot is quite open about it now. But expect a sermon about the love of Jesus.”
Lady Pink then slapped her thighs, “And I will have the dressmaker come by the mission next week. There will be enough time if you make up your mind when she visits. She will take photographs and then place your body inside hundreds of wedding dresses, unless you already have ideas that can narrow it down.”
Maeve’s head was spinning. “Simple? Not showy. I think a lot of the lace things show too much, and they would show that I don’t have a lot to show. And it seems since you are writing the check again, I won’t be allowed to refuse. By the way, since you were in the mob, did you ever make someone an offer that they could not refuse?”
Pink Lady laughed, but she did not say “no” either.
The conversation went from there to what kind of vows they might have. The nursing staff brought in two recliners. Maeve sat next to my Dad, holding his hand, and Pink Lady was there in case she needed to take a break, but they mostly slept until dawn.
Pink Lady awoke before dawn, probably disturbed by a passing nurse. She was doing her morning exercises when she heard a snort and a groan from the bed.
Maeve gasped, “Thou, are you awake?!”
My Dad blinked, “I am now! Why did you yell?”
“And why am I strapped down? Where am I?”
Pink Lady said, “You are in the ER. You were poisoned yesterday. They caught the woman responsible thanks to you. Do you remember anything?”
“I remember going to see Deviled at the precinct. He said something about some color code and then everything gets fuzzy. I remember some mean woman telling me what to do.”
Glyce barked, “Very funny, Old Man! Next time, I’ll just watch you die! How is that for mean?!” She must have been waiting in the waiting area and heard the commotion.
My Dad chuckled, “Then I heard this beautiful voice tell me that the answer to my question was ‘Yes.’ Was that you, Maeve?”
“Then, it’s true?” my Dad asked. Maeve nodded. Then Dad continued, “We can have lasagna tonight?! I didn’t know you knew how to make lasagna.”
Maeve gasped in shock and tears began to form, “B-b-b-but that’s not the right question!”
My Dad laughed, “That was my back-up question in case the other question didn’t get a good answer. For the real question, I will need my pants.”
Nurse ZTQYZXPE walked by and said, “Patients do not get their pants until they are ready to be discharged.”
My Dad got very angry. “I ain’t leaving! I just need my pants. You can give my pants to Dr. Yeggs there, and she can hold them, but I NEED … MY … PANTS!!!” The nurse that is called “Zee,” because her name is impossible to pronounce, pulled out some keys and went to a cabinet that formed the corner of the room. No one had even known it was there. She pulled out the pants, making a sour face, and she handed them to Glyce. She then squirted hand sanitizer over her hands and rubbed it all the way to the elbows, and she rushed from the room, presumably to take a shower. My Dad said, “Sorry, I was unclogging toilets when Maeve asked me to go see Deviled.” Glyce groaned. “Now, Glyce, you can make up for being mean to me by reaching into my left front pocket.” Glyce found a small jewelry box. She quickly threw the pants into the far corner of the room and gave Dad the box.
My dad turned to Maeve, “I can’t get on one knee, but will you marry me?”
Maeve said with tears bursting forth, “Yes, Yes, YES!”
Hate to cut that touching moment off, but that led to a double-wedding shower. They got Chef “Blitz” Blixem, of Dunder and Blixem Restaurant in Stout County to provide entertainment, food, and a learning experience, as everyone got to assist him in the kitchen. They filled both the kitchen and the dining room with mixing bowls and appliances so that a variety of dishes could be prepared at the same time. (Note: we have enough leftovers to last a week in case you want to drop by to visit.) Unlike Mashie Niblick’s mansion style kitchen, the Deviled Yeggs household had a normal size kitchen, and the teaching moments were done in shifts. Blitz gave them recipes, and he showed a lot of techniques.
The combined wedding parties, at least the ladies, were all in attendance. Ambrosia and Honey Crisp Apple were there. Maeve’s mother and aunt were there. Pauline Niblick and Tuesday Wednesday both had to work.
The party games started after they ate lunch. Zuzka had Marta Kalnins, Tuesday Wednesday’s mother and fellow immigrant from Latvia, acting as her interpreter. Zuzka felt less handicapped, but the only time that she won was in the game involving American Love Songs. Zuzka aced it without any interpreter needed. I guess love songs are universal.
But then it came time to open the presents. Pink Lady had let everyone know that she really did not need anything, and that Maeve and Thou would both live and work at the mission. They needed everything, but it had to be in miniature to fit in the two rooms, bedroom and living room with bathroom. This area of the mission offices was being renovated into an apartment for them, ready long before the wedding. The living room area would also have a kitchenette, and a side door would lead to Maeve’s counselling office. With the large sum that Pink Lady had donated, they had the money to make the renovations as well as purchase the abandoned structure across the street for future expansion. In the meantime, Pink Lady offered apartments at the Lily the Pink complex for families who were homeless with free bus service to and from the mission. A few of those people expressed interest in making hard apple cider, and their Lily the Pink temporary living arrangement might then become permanent. That, in itself, was an answer to one of Pink Lady’s prayers. Her faithful employees were all working overtime to keep up with the sales demands. And they all wanted to attend the wedding, meaning a plant shutdown for a day. Pink Lady already had a contractor on call to do preventive maintenance on everything at the cider house that day.
But when the presents were brought out, the beautifully decorated boxes were all empty. Okay, let me modify that. They had the same weight as the original present, but there was some internal panels of the cardboard box that were lined with thin metal sheets. The weight in the boxes, the same as before, was perfectly balanced, with the weights on all four sides, and sometimes top and bottom. And tied to the eight corners of the inside of the box was a card, tied in white ribbon, like it was trapped in a spider’s web.
The givers of the gifts were not happy that their presents had been stolen. They wanted answers. As Pink Lady and Maeve pulled out the first of the cards for each of them, they noticed the messages on the cards were in code.
Glyce took charge. Each of the “presents” were opened and the cards were given to Sophie, our daughter who had just turned thirteen. Sophie got out a notepad and started writing notes.
Glyce explained to everyone that Millennium Yeggs, GrandPa to all in the family but only Deviled’s grandfather, was famous for pulling pranks. Yes, GrandPa was a top-secret federal agent (retired) who specialized in safe-cracking, robbery, and sneaking in and out of houses and government buildings without anyone knowing he had been there, until they discovered something was missing. He had done that in countless places around the world. The presents would all be recovered, and GrandPa would be informed that his prank was not well received, and he should apologize. She then turned to Sophie to beg if she had anything decoded.
Sophie fluttered her eyes at her mother to show that much of the code had been child’s play, but she still wasn’t finished. She said, “Mommy… Oops, Mom, I am a teen-ager now, so it’s ‘Mom.’ I forgot what I should call you.” Note: She did not forget. She was informing everyone who might not know that she was now a teen-ager. “I arranged the cards in the order that GrandPa wanted them read. That part of the code was just his shorthand in the corner of the cards. The first card was very easy. It says:
‘Ground slumber his underneath is present the but
Boy a is Winkle van Rip know we.
Abound a that clouds watching while sleeps he.
Enjoy we holiday Spring A.’ “
Glyce put her head in her hands, “Soapy, in regular English, not the way GrandPa wrote the message! This is starting to be a disaster!”
Sophie (or Sophia to be formal or Soapy for her school nickname) giggled with delight, “Most people read left to right, top down, but GrandPa writes his easier messages right to left, bottom to top, at least for the easy ones. Just read it backwards that way. It mentions a Spring holiday, someone who sleeps a lot and watches clouds, he is a boy, and underneath his slumber ground must mean that the first gift is underneath Easter’s bed. I won’t bore you with the second poem. It’s under my bed, but now that I am a teen-ager, GrandPa better not sneak in there while I’m sleeping! Just think if I got married or something! I would have to check under the bed on my wedding night! That’s CREEPY!!! I will have a talk with him. The third gift is under Mom and Dad’s bed. The fourth gift is above the garage door motor in the garage. The fifth gift is in the huge pot that you use for making fruit preserves in the storage room, since we only do that once a year. And the sixth gift is over Blaise’s bed disguised as part of the ceiling. The card has a note on the card that says if that smart kid insults his GrandPa again, GrandPa will cut the rope that holds the present, giving Blaise a massive headache. Please, let’s go egg Blaise on, I would love to see that!”
Glyce shouted, “He’s your BROTHER!!!”
Sophie rolled her eyes in disappointment, but she continued, “The rest were a lot harder to decipher and it will require a road trip. As for the ciphers, the substitution codes are in five letter blocks, no hints as to the length of words or punctuation. To make it worse, the codes either go up and down right to left or they spiral inwardly or outwardly. Those are head scratchers. I think the last one has the words just jumbled on the card, but I am still working on it. His easier codes, I can do without taking notes, but these difficult ones require some note taking. As for the road trip, GrandPa even suggested a search party. One card was dedicated to that. I have to be part of the party, because he thinks I am the only one that can speak GrandPa’s language. He may be right. The brides have to be there. Mom? You, Gwen Quinn, and Dot Com have to be in the party as the maids and matron of honor. That’s six people. We could take a seventh in your SUV, but it might be tight if it is anyone other than Jemima.” No one complained about Sophie’s hint that everyone else might be too big. The other shower participants were tired and wanted to go home, all except Zuzka.
The presents that were in the house were retrieved and everyone wished the brides good wishes and left, except for the search party made up of the maids, or matron, of honor, the brides, and two really smart teen-agers. A few who had come left without seeing the surprised look on the brides’ faces when their present was opened. The first house was the Mashie Niblick mansion. Scrambled’s house was next. A big box was at Jim Wednesday’s house and it looked like a few small presents inside. There were a couple of presents at the church. By this point, the limited trunk space was full and people had presents on their laps. There was even a present under Captain Hart’s desk in his office. He was far from pleased when people on a scavenger hunt showed up and he never knew that GrandPa had broken in, leaving a present there. He checked the security footage, and the cameras were off for an hour the night before about midnight. All the gifts had been retrieved except for two for each bride and there was only one card left.
The card had references all over the map. It was the longest poem, using the strangest of ciphers and patterns of words. Sophie was getting tired of GrandPa’s antics and just wanted to call him and tell him the game was OVER! But Jemima had jumped at the chance to sit next to Sophie in the back row of the SUV, Sophie in the center seat, being the smallest. Sophie had the words, but she could not get them in the right order. And then it seemed that there were a few random unused letters.
Jemima suggested, “The word hole is prominent. There is a ‘junior’ and there is an extra “R” that you haven’t used? Then there are references to mowing the lawn, making things green, snooty rich people, tiny lost balls. There is a reference to a tunnel and light only coming from above. If you use the abbreviation for junior as Jr and you add the extra “R”, you get J.R.R. which could be Tolkien. Then the hole is the Hobbit Hole. The secret tunnel entrance originates where the golf club stores their lawn mowers and other machines, like fertilizer spreaders – mowing lawns and keeping them green. I think that the Niblicks have not moved into their new home yet. When we were at their new house earlier, the house was empty except for a few pieces of furniture, including the bed that the present was under. GrandPa is probably in the Hobbit Hole with the other four presents, sipping cider and visiting with Mashie Niblick. By this point, Pauline is probably home from work.”
Glyce said, “It’s worth the gas money. Next stop is the Hoity Toity Club.”
They went to the Hobbit Hole and Mashie welcomed them in. There were boxes everywhere as the Niblicks were about to start moving the bulk of their possessions. He told the wedding party to go downstairs to the living room. GrandPa was sitting on the sectional sofa with the four gifts and a huge box, his gift.
“Greetings, Greetings!” GrandPa said with a flair. “Come in. Sit down. A second party is about to begin. Sorry, I did not wrap my gift. After making coded message clones of all the wedding gifts, I simply got tired. You may ask why I did this. I always do tricks like this to keep my skills sharp, although Hugh McAdoo will never ask for my help again. Maybe I need to do these tricks to stay in shape. I would love to stop the calendar, but I will be approaching a three-digit number in not too many years. But the real reason that I played the prank is that you are planning two weddings. One is with my son as the groom. The other is with one of my grandsons as the groom. No one even told me. My spies had to let me know. I was hurt. Now, out of the seven of you, I know Glyce and Sophie. They are family. Dorothy Cahn is familiar in that I have seen her picture in the newspaper. I could say the same for Pink Lady Apple, but I have seen her photo in other places also. Jemima, I have seen you with Easter. I wonder why this is not a Triple-wedding.”
Jemima said, “GrandPa, my father is having a private Bible study with Easter and me. It is a slow plodding look at as many Biblical relationships as he can find. He wants our relationship to be strong with Jesus, but strong with each other. So, why not study Biblical relationships, the good and the bad? The fact that he has no idea when we will be finished comes to mind, but I shall honor my father. Some of it is for adults only, but my father goes right into the naughty bits! Plus, he’s a preacher and it would not look right for the daughter of a preacher to not have a wedding in the church. At least, that is his latest excuse to throw cold water on our relationship. But those hormones are firing like crazy!!”
GrandPa chuckled, and then he turned to Maeve Collins, “And now by process of elimination, you must be the young girl that is in love with the Old Man, my son, and you never asked me for permission to marry him. Now, that is getting off on the wrong foot, but if Thousand-Year-Old loves you, you must be very special. Welcome to the family.”
Pink Lady said, “But you missed one. May I introduce you to my maid of honor?”
GrandPa waved her off. “There is no need. Gwen, it has been too long. I am sorry there was a lapse in my visits.”
Gwen rushed forward and hugged him. “It is okay, Millie. I still love you. You were the most wanted man of the Rosales family there for a while. You stayed away for my protection and to protect your family, and then things have gotten strange between pandemic lockdowns, Fuji and Ginger Gold Apple disappearing, and the madness since then. And are you sure that you can be seen in public even now?”
Glyce and Sophie looked at each other with their mouths agape. No one except for very close female friends ever called GrandPa Millie, and none of those very close female friends would be allowed to hug him. Those were his inviolable rules.
GrandPa said, “If I had the chance to be with you again, I would risk it. Besides, I have made life too easy for Hugh McAdoo. The brides might not like tight security at the wedding, but I am going to be there. One way or another.”
And Pink Lady whispered, “And I think I know who can walk Gwen down the aisle. Who knows? Maybe Thou would like his father to be best man.”
The words that the father of the bride usually says to the question of who gives this woman in marriage to the man is: “Her mother and I do,” but Thou is not the father, only standing in for him, and the mother has passed away. They’ll think of something. My imagination is bone dry at this point.
The concept of making offers that you cannot refuse comes from The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Don Vito Corleone: I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.
Rip van Winkle (written as Winkle van Rip in GrandPa’s first poem) is a short story by Washington Irving. Rip van Winkle slept for at least twenty years. Easter has only made twenty hours of sleep a few times, forget days or years.
And a note from Deviled: I think the spies to which GrandPa referred are Mashie and Pauline Niblick, real spies doing real spook stuff on occasion, now only by contract. They work for the same guy who has a protection detail covering GrandPa when he leaves his mountain cabin. The Niblicks probably mentioned it thinking that GrandPa already knew. Did both my Dad and Scrambled leave him off the invitation list on purpose or was it by accident? That mystery may never be solved.