I’m Detective Staff Sergeant Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. My partner is Jim Wednesday. Poached Yeggs, homicide detective and my nephew, was already working the normal homicide cases, those that were fairly open and shut, but they still had to be well documented.
Captain Hart came into the squad room, “Yeggs!! Why are you not in your office?!”
My office was an interrogation (interview) room that I had to leave if we had too many suspects or witnesses being interviewed. I replied, “Captain, I am discussing a cold case with my partner.”
Captain Hart said, “Drop it! I got something warmer. Grab your stuff and take along Skee-Bah. You’re gonna need it!”
Jim asked, “Ski what?!”
Captain Hart huffed, “Skee Bah, SCBA, self-contained breathing apparatus. I hope your certification is up to date, you’ll need it. Here’s the address. Now move! This case is right up your alley, Yeggs. It’s weird.”
I replied, “I prefer ‘quirky,’ Captain. ‘Weird’ somehow sounds distasteful.”
Captain Hart blinked twice. Jim and I knew that if he blinked a third time, we would have to pay dearly. We already had our notebooks, so we ran from the room to the equipment locker to get SCBA and make sure the air tanks were full. We got two each since the air is limited and we might have to exert ourselves, which uses more oxygen.
I checked the address. It was at a low-rent housing project on the far side of town. Jim checked traffic. Just our luck, every major route was in gridlock except for a few blocks around our destination, probably evacuating everyone downwind of the reason for the SCBA. And if you are wondering, SCBA is SCUBA that is not rated for underwater use. It is used when there is a hazardous gas in the area or smoke – our SCBA is just like the ones used by fire fighters, if not working hard, about an hour of air, but if a fire truck was nearby, we could hook up to an umbilical hose. But the Captain gave us no hints as to what the need for it was.
To lighten the mood, Jim asked, “How was the graduation and why was no one invited?”
I chuckled, “No one was invited because neither Easter nor Jemima were there.”
Jim was shocked, “They didn’t graduate?!”
“Jim, where have you been? Right after the bachelorette and bachelor parties, they left on their first storm chasing expedition. They received their diplomas the day before the party started. Did you not see on the news that the top ten were all brought onto the stage and two of them were cardboard cutouts? Third was a life-size cutout of Jemima and tenth was a life-size cutout of Easter. If Easter had not fallen in love with Jemima, he would have not made the top ten, barely made it as it was. But they have been chasing storms for a little over two weeks. They are returning tonight. The professors will download the data while they go to the wedding rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, and weddings. Then by Tuesday or Wednesday, they’ll be back chasing storms. They are getting paid. Easter is the driver of the Turtle, and Jemima doubles as the lookout and the camera operator, stills and video. Rev. C.S.L. suggested that a common interest for the two would be good for their relationship. This way, they both get a minimum salary, plus bonuses if any images are sold, and they get college credits based on how many hours they are actively collecting data or driving. And as it is, Easter doesn’t have to collect data, but he can analyze it if they ever stop for the night. As of his last call, they do not stop that often. They get somewhere safe for a few hours and sleep in the Turtle. There have been just too many storms the last few weeks, and by the time the weddings are over and they go back, it will be hurricane season.”
Jim asked, “You aren’t worried about them?”
I replied, “They have two professors in the back of the Turtle. The Turtle is a specially modified SUV and Easter has been driving it under adverse conditions. What could go wrong?”
My cellphone rang. It was Rev. C.S.L. My cellphone was synced with the car’s Bluetooth, so that I could talk hands free, but the caller was broadcast over the car’s speakers. I gave the usual greeting. “Don’t ‘Hello’ me with such a friendly tone in your voice. Has your son defiled my daughter? Has he robbed her of her virginity?!?!”
I replied, “I have no idea what you are talking about, and the last time they were getting amorous, your daughter was propositioning my son. Doing the P.K. (Preacher’s Kid) rebellion thing. What is going on? I have not heard from Easter in 3-4 days.”
Rev. C.S.L. said, “Of course, he is not going to call and confess that he slept with my daughter. When he went to our special ‘relationship’ classes, I could tell he wasn’t paying attention. He was planning how he would pounce when the time was right!”
I sighed, “First off, Easter always looks like his head is in the clouds. That is his normal expression. Second, they have had so little down time on this expedition, they have been taking turns sleeping in the Turtle. And third, I cannot do my job as a detective unless I have facts to work with. Fourth, I have never seen you in this type of attitude. You have forgotten you are a pastor, and you are in full-fledged crazy protective father mode. Take some deep breaths, and then calmly tell me what you have been told. Then, I will call Easter and see what he has to say. They are not scheduled back until tonight. You must have gotten a phone call.”
There was a moment of silence. Jim and I thought we heard some soft crying over the phone. “I apologize, Deviled. I lost my head. Jemima called this morning and said that she had slept with Easter. I blubbered something, and she said that due to T.R.U.S.T. buying the customized SUV that you call the Turtle – I guess everyone does – but the university is short on operating funds, especially now that there are two storm chaser teams. She said that the professors claimed that there were budget cutbacks that they said nothing about before leaving. One professor was rooming with the other professor, and Jemima and Easter had to room together. I must confess before God that I saw red. She said other things. I heard none of it. I called your wife and said a curse against the university. I upset her greatly. I just wanted to vent my anger at all involved. If you ask for me to step down as pastor, I will understand. As I must forgive Easter for what he has done, I hope the church will forgive me for my vented anger.”
I suggested, “All you know is that they slept in the same hotel room. She may have misspoken and said, ‘slept together.’ Let’s not jump to conclusions. I will make some calls.” The pastor disconnected.
Jim said that the pastor’s tantrum was justified under the circumstances. It proved he loved his daughter.
I was about to tell Jim that the pastor’s first wife had three daughters, and all had gone wild doing sexual PK antics, and after her death and then remarrying, he named their new daughter Jemima, after Jemimah at the end of Job. She was the daughter who had to make up for the mistakes of the other three and his mistakes as a father. The pastor might not admit that, but…
But then, the phone rang before I could say anything about that. It was Glyce, my wife, she was in full nitro-Glyce-rin (nitroglycerin) mode. “FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED. DETECTIVE, DETECT!!!!” She disconnected. Odd, I had not even said, “Hello or Good-bye.”
Before the traffic moved a single car-length and we stopped again, the phone rang. It was Easter. “Dad, I think Jemima said things that the pastor misunderstood. I could here the yelling from across the hotel room.”
“Easter, what were you doing in a hotel room? This whole time, you have been sleeping in the car.”
“Dad, we’ve been on the road for over two weeks. Whenever the professors plotted our course to the next predicted super cell, I would take a nap in a parking lot, still at the wheel. Some of the straight runs, Jemima and I split the driving so that the other of us could sleep. And the professors had the comfy chairs in the back and once we had the navigation system programmed, they slept all the way there. We had blinder masks since most of that type of driving was early morning. Occasionally, you can have dustups in the morning, but the storms most often require the heat from the sun making the air layers unstable. So, afternoon and through midnight was the best storm chasing time. But to be honest, after dark, you saw practically nothing, and it gets really scary.”
There was a pause and then Easter continued, “We never had a break until two nights ago. That’s when the professors sprung their sob story about budget cuts and Jemima and I had to sleep together. Since we have been dating over two years, they never imagined that we were not already sleeping together, but we didn’t have the money for an additional hotel room, and they didn’t either. They had credit cards, but they weren’t going to use them. We might not pay them back. The first night, we had a room with two beds. We took shifts in the bathroom, and we were so exhausted, neither of us said a word after a single good night kiss. We got that from our cousin, the mayor. One kiss and leave them wanting more. We crashed. Nothing happened, either night. After driving halfway home yesterday, with me doing all the driving, we stopped at a hotel with only two rooms available. The professors took the room with two beds. No way would they sleep in the same bed. And we were stuck with the honeymoon suite. Dad, have you ever tried to sleep completely separated from the other person in a heart shaped bed? There is a subtle slope to the mattress. It may be that the springs are shot in the middle of the bed and not designed that way, but we were not nearly as tired, and we kept rolling toward the middle and then trying to crawl back to the edge. I finally slept a few hours in a recliner. And by the way, you said that before you got married to Mom, you had to take a lot of cold showers. … Dad, last night she was wearing some lacey sleeping thing, definitely not pajamas, not showing anything, but not hiding the curves either. I took three cold showers. Those cold showers don’t work so good!!”
“No, son, they don’t work so good. Just for curiosity’s sake, does she snore?”
“No, but she giggles in her sleep. She must have had some really good dreams. Hope you can straighten out the misunderstanding. I hope the pastor didn’t make a fuss yet.”
“Too late for that, son, but we shall think of mercy and forgiveness. Glad nothing happened, as the pastor suspected. I will sort out as much as I can. See you tonight. Drive safely. I hope you got enough sleep for that.”
“I think so, Dad. See you tonight.”
As I disconnected, the phone rang again. It was Glyce, less like nitroglycerin. “Dev, I apologize. I tried to call Easter, but he was on the phone with you. I called Jemima and she told me everything. Probably the same story that Easter told you. They were in the same hotel room the first night, the same bed the second night. They never got naked. Other than a good-night kiss, they did nothing amorous. She used the wrong words with her Dad and the pastor went into heavy protection mode. I have called the chancellor and registered a complaint of a violation of the morality clause for such outings and I have pledged a large enough donation to the meteorology department to cover and extra room so that the two students do not have to sleep in the same room. I could care less about the professors. Let their Mommies take care of them!! Love you, sweetie.” She disconnected. Again, I had said nothing.
I turned to Jim. “I hope none of those wonderful people find out that you heard every word.”
Jim asked, “Is that what I have to look forward to when my kids graduate high school?”
“Probably, Jim, probably. But they will probably be driving flying cars by then.”
I hope we can get to the report of the case next week, but then again, with the traffic moving this slow, we might not be there by then. I am sure you are just as curious as we are right now about the need for SCBA.
The first time that I used SCBA I had been volunteered as part of a petrochemical company’s fire department. If the union went on strike, as an engineer at the plant, I had operator duties, not considered a scab since I worked at the plant. The people from the main office were considered scabs. But I was given an additional job as a fireman. Based on the hazards around the plant, we might have to don our SCBA quickly. In testing sessions, I think my best time, with the tank and harness laying flat on a table, I rolled over the table and stood breathing SCBA air in eighteen seconds with the harness and mask straps tightened. When I told people at a DuPont plant that I could do that, they thought I was crazy. You donned SCBA slowly in DuPont plants, following all the safety rules in doing so. For the umbilical hoses, those were used by firemen if 1) close enough to the truck and 2) the fire fight might be longer than the tank afforded. Even then, we wore an egress tank on our hip, about five minutes of air, just enough to get to a safe location in case something went wrong with the hose and our main tank was empty. Only problem was that if you had that kind of problem, no one was then fighting the fire.
The difference in quirky and weird came up in our last Sunday school class before the summer break. One lady, who I love dearly, thanked me for teaching the class all year. She especially liked the “quirky” stories that I tell. My wife then chimed in to say that my stories had been called strange, weird, goofy, but never quirky. It took me a long time to realize that the last illustrative story, fitting in with James 2, was the sea of beggars that you had to negotiate to get into most of the nice downtown hotels in Mumbai, India. I talked about the little 6–7-year-old girls who worked in teams as pickpockets, one distracting while the others reached into your pockets. All in contrasting cultures between those beggars and pickpockets and the panhandlers that roam the interstate exits in our area that lead to shopping centers. I guess talking about something that the class has never experienced might sound quirky, but when I tell those same stories around my sister, she does not say quirky. She says, “Brother dear, I love you to death, but you just ain’t right!” Yes, I prefer “quirky.”
Storm chasing teams can be as little as two or three people, but with a college team, you are teaching while chasing and gathering support data so that you had the meteorological data that could support the photographs. Amateur storm chasers do it for the thrill and the chance of a “money shot”, a photograph that the news agencies will pay good money to get, but professional storm chasers are there to protect lives. Radar can do only so much and visual confirmation of a tornado (a rotating funnel cloud that is touching the ground or trees and structure just above the ground), as an example, helps people know exactly where the storm is, where it is going, and how quickly they need to be in their safe place. And of course, if the worst happens, the storm chasers are already there. They can call for first responders with exact locations and apply first aid until the first responders get there.