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, has been working with Jim in my absence, but he needs to go back to the routine cases. I’m back.
Where had I been? Here and there, but to explain it, I need to go back to when my daughter, Sophie, was studying our Cold Case files. She was enjoying her time, being with me, and deciding if she really would enjoy being a detective someday. She seems to be a natural detective.
Sophie looked through the files and saw how Jim and I had worked up a sound theory regarding motive and opportunity, but we never had enough evidence to solve the murder. This was back when Jim had first made detective, but even then, we had been very thorough. In fact, as we laid out what we thought had happened, one location had been the only logical place where the person had been murdered. The body had obviously been dumped elsewhere. But the best spot was clean of trace evidence, blood, fingerprints, and footprints. So clean, it seemed unnatural. There should be some fingerprints at least, but nothing.
I told Sophie that those things happen. The murderer is extra careful in cleaning up.
She then lifted a half dozen case files, and asked, “So, why are all these the same? All of them murdered within a three-year span. Carefully scrubbed crime scene, at least what felt like the most logical spot. I’ve mapped them and they are all in the southeast corner of town.”
We brainstormed on that thought for a while and we thought that a crime scene clean-up crew might have the skills to fool the police, if they chose to be involved and helped with the planning of the murder. Sophie’s imagination went wild, but I started seeing some sense in it.
I knew all the cleaning crews and most of them hired extras when they were thin. In asking around, I found that two different crews mentioned one guy during those years who was the best cleaning guy that they had ever worked with. He never wanted to be permanently part of a crew. He was saving his money to buy a laundromat. He wanted to go into a different type of cleaning. According to one of the cleaning company owners, he had “made a killing” in the laundromat business. He owned several laundromats on the southeast side of town.
His name was Nelson Riley, a.k.a. Mr. Clean.
In doing a background check, everything looked legitimate. Maybe this would be a wild goose chase, but I had a strong hunch. The thing that seemed hard to believe with his financial reporting is that he made better profits than any of the other laundromats in town. It seemed that if he did something illegal for cash payment, he filtered that cash in with the coins. He had a legitimate reason for depositing bills with the change makers in each location. But the cleaning people did not know the extent of his properties. He was not renting space for his laundromats. He owned the buildings. He had a multitude of businesses paying him rent. Office space, restaurants, storage, he had what you needed.
Before I cleared it with Captain Hart, my first question was where Nelson Riley’s office was? Where were Nelson Riley’s files, if he had any, regarding his illegal activities? And then what I really needed was to have him show us the evidence or have reasonable cause for a warrant. To this point, all I had was the guesswork of a thirteen-year-old.
To be honest, I kept her in the dark about the laundromats, Nelson Riley, or anything about what I intended on doing. Sophie was smart. She might figure it out, but she knew not to blow my cover.
I rented a locker at the bus station, and I kept my spare clothing there with my pile of cash for laundry soap, dryer sheets, and plenty of quarters. I dressed as a bum, starting scruffy and then getting a thicker beard as time went on. I rotated from one laundromat to another until I learned Riley’s pattern. Each laundromat had back rooms that were locked. Each laundromat had security cameras. This was going to be tricky, but it was possible.
I come from a long line of yeggs, not just the family name, but the profession of safe-cracking. My father taught me well, but I chose to be a policeman instead. I played tricks at the various laundromats so that the manager had to check things out. Being someone dressed like a homeless person, I was not noticed as they came in and out of the room in the back. Just short glimpses eliminated all but two of the laundromats. For those two, I calculated dead spaces in the room that were not covered by a camera, both inside the laundromat and the back-room’s door that spilled into the alley. I then simply let myself in for a thorough perusing of the files.
As I had expected, he did not trust his clients. He had captured evidence, probably good enough for DNA testing, as well as a note stating the pertinent data for the crimes. Sophie had missed a couple of the murders in her research. The new total was eight in Tracy and one in Stout County. I made sure everything was returned as I found it.
I now had the knowledge, but we had to find that knowledge by legal means instead of picking a lock.
For over a week, I traced the pattern of Nelson Riley. When was he at each of his locations? What were his habits? What did he do for lunch? Who did he talk to?
I not only learned who he talked to, but when he sat in the sweltering heat of a laundromat without air conditioning to talk, he loved swapping tales with old men. He loved sitting at the location with the secret files from about 3:00pm to 5:00pm and if there was an old man there, they sat and talked about “the good old days.”
This gave me a bright idea. I contacted George Evident, who was now a detective with Organized Crime. He had run some evidence gathering operations as a patrolman in our precinct before his promotion. The two of us, along with GrandPa concocted a scheme. They would go to the appropriate laundromat and tell stories. GrandPa’s stories had to be true, so that Nelson Riley might hear a story that he had read about in the newspapers back in the day. GrandPa could legitimately bring those capers up since the statute of limitations had long expired. In fact, bringing up those limitations was important.
It was about the fourth time that they sat in a laundromat, talking about robberies and such that Nelson Riley joined in. It might be that he needed to see the two newcomers a few times before he could trust them. With the idea planted that old crimes could not be prosecuted, just guys bragging, Nelson Riley started hinting that he had not always been on the straight and narrow. It took nearly the entire two hours, but George, pretending to be a fan of criminal masterminds, got Nelson Riley to admit he had cleaned up crime scenes to conceal that a murder had taken place. He bragged about how those homicide detectives were helpless and hopeless once he had cleaned up after the murderer. He also had said that he had critical evidence in his filing cabinet in the backroom in case one of the murderers started talking.
George said excitedly, “Wow! You’re the greatest! Can I see?”
The three went into the back room and Nelson Riley pulled out hair samples and such, carefully stored in plastic sealed storage bags.
That’s when George identified himself and threw on the cuffs. Identifying himself as a detective from Organized Crime, Nelson Riley became very agitated.
George shrugged, “When you have orchestrated nine murders, none being related to the others, that sounds like organized crime to me.”
“But what about that statue of limitations thing?”
George said, “When GrandPa was talking about that, he was talking about robberies and such. There is no statute of limitations on murder. That includes assisting the murder, like helping carry the body to the dump, and concealing evidence of the crime of murder, like cleaning up afterwards. We could nail you ten years from now, but now seems better.”
“But you tricked me into showing you this stuff.”
Then I spoke up. “But I just walked through an open door to see it.”
Riley sputtered, “Ain’t you the bum that’s been around here for a couple of weeks. What kind of testimony could you give?”
I smiled and pulled out my shield, “I’m Detective Staff Sergeant Deviled Yeggs. I’m one of those helpless and hopeless homicide detectives that you bragged about fooling all those years ago, but I think we can make a deal with you. The DA might not prosecute you if you turn evidence against the nine murderers that you helped. I can’t promise, but closing eight cases here and one in Stout County might be enough to settle on time served. You know, time served being you staying in jail for your own protection after nine murderers know that you talked.”
Once we had all the paperwork filed and Nelson Riley taken into custody, George dropped me off in front of our house.
I walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell, one of those doorbells that has a camera and a link to Glyce’s and my cellphone. Glyce refused to open the door.
“Come on, sweetheart, let me in! I promise to go straight to the bathroom to take a shower!”
“No,” Glyce replied. “You stink! Take your clothes off out on the front porch. We can burn them later. Then, you can enter the house and go straight to the shower.”
“Please, dear, please!” I pleaded. “The neighbors might see me naked.”
“Nope. You stink. You have to strip.” All her instructions were said over the speaker at the front doorbell. She was talking into her cellphone.
As I was about to knock and plead my case again, I heard something behind me. It was Glyce, Sophie, and Blaise. Glyce, my loving wife, had the garden hose. Sophie and Blaise had soap and sponges. Glyce cut loose with the hose.
“Hey, you have the power washer hooked up! That hurts!”
“It looks fun from where I’m standing.” She replied.
The kids then attacked with their soap and sponges.
Before they were through, I had given each of them a wet bear hug or two. Everyone had gotten soaking wet. And we all had a good laugh. I bragged on how Sophie had provided the key evidence that would close nine homicides. But I did not want to brag too much. She would end up with a better closure rate than Jim and I had amassed. That closure rate kept us in the luxury we lived in. That and Trinity Naomi Tesla Yeggs, otherwise known as Glyce for being like nitroglycerin at times, you know, my wife being the head of a department at the university. But I prefer to focus on the homicide closure rate.
“I’m back.” Is often thought of as a line by Jack Nicholson in The Shining. But then Randy Quaid said, “Hello, boys! I’m back!” famously in Independence Day. Arnold Schwarzenegger said “I’ll be back.” And then he was back in one of the Terminator movies. Take your pick.
Nelson Riley might be short for Charles Nelson Reilly, but I looked at a list of “boy names” and Nelson and Riley jumped out at me. It wasn’t until I had typed the name a few times that I made the connection. Charles Nelson Reilly was a supporting actor on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, a television series which I enjoyed, but he was probably best known as a panelist on Match Game, one of the show’s regulars for roughly ten years.
Mr. Clean is a product made by Proctor & Gamble. The character on the package is recognizable by his bald head and wearing a sparkling white T-shirt, usually showing his muscles to let you know how strong the product is (or is that just marketing hype?). But I do not see how calling someone a master of making things clean cannot result in picking up that nickname.
And as for not letting Deviled Yeggs into the house, my wife refused me entrance to our home once. It was the last time that I spent two weeks on maneuvers. I had not had a bath, none of us had, for those two weeks. She refused me entrance. I refused to undress in a public stairwell. I argued that the bathroom was only two steps from the entrance. One step into the apartment and then one step into the bathroom. She settled on me removing my combat boots and socks outside. She opened the door and made sure I only took two steps. I then showered with my clothes on. Afterward, I removed my clothing and hand washed each item while the shower was still spraying me with water. I then took a second full shower, shampooing my hair in the process. Only then did she welcome me home with a kiss. The next day, I had to take my clothing to the laundry room and clean them again.