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 and I am letting it stay that way for the crime scene investigation. They had a very nasty crime scene, and it was going to take a long time to process the scene. I wanted to make a notification before the media found out.
I pulled in front of Pink Lady’s house and Sandy Beech met me at the door in a somber mood. “Uncle Deviled, she’s in her office. We still haven’t moved it out of the dining room.” Since Sandy is dating Pink Lady’s son, she is starting to feel like family.
Pink Lady greeted me and said, “I had a feeling you would be coming at some point, but I have no connection with prostitution anymore.”
I apologized, “I am not here on official investigation business. I wanted to let you know before the media descends on you.”
She nodded, “Some of the ladies who left here to remain in prostitution called and asked if they could reconsider. I have housed them down the road in my second apartment building. I was setting up that building for our senior staff as we continue to grow. I am leaving them in isolation until I know that they are sincere about leaving prostitution. I think they are just scared. Many may be like rats deserting a sinking ship, and as soon as they find a means of continuing their trade, they will. If they are sincere, I can put them to work here. How did it happen?”
I replied, “Lisa Porter, the madam who used to be your chief accountant, was hit on the head with a big rock, a gargoyle was dropped from the roof. I’m going to have to bring in a lot of experts on this one, but whoever did it was sloppy. They wanted it to look like the gargoyle simply fell, but there is dust everywhere on the roof except around that gargoyle. Otherwise, I might be saying that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Pink had tears rolling down her cheeks, “I broke all ties with those who willingly left. I felt it important for those who remained, but if I had kept some contact …”
I leaned toward her desk. “Don’t do this, Pink. If you need a bear hug, I am available and well-practiced, but do not deal with guilt. They made their decision. Lisa Porter set herself up in that strange house on the county line road to be in no man’s land between the Rotten Apples and the Leafy Greens of Stout County. The house was barely on our side of the line. She paid the price and the ladies disappeared, but I guess they reappeared here.”
Pink Lady nodded, “I have GrandPa coming in to interview all of them. I have Pauline coming over once GrandPa is done. I will not accept anyone back into the fold unless I get two votes from the interviewers that they want to be here instead of just running scared, but I will let them stay and feed them unless they try to continue their business here. I have programmed your lead detective for Vice on speed dial.”
I added, “Can I be the third interview?”
Pink Lady’s attitude turned sour, “Do you suspect them?”
I shrugged, “Whoever did this had to have gotten help from the inside unless the gargoyle fell on its own, but if Lisa Porter was targeted, the other ladies would have never been able to dislodge a gargoyle on their own. At least, I don’t think so. I’m going to ask an engineer to inspect the roof. What can you tell me about Lisa?”
Pink Lady seemed ill at ease. She looked over the papers on her desk, but she needed none of them to answer my questions.
She finally answered, “I hired her to be an accountant, but Baldwyn required her to prostitute herself. The strange thing is that it seemed she went to the job knowing what Baldwyn would do. She wanted to be the madam ever since she got here. I had read her all wrong during the interview. She knew how to play that game very well. She moved into the no-man’s land between the Leafy Greens and the Rotten Apples so that she would not have any trouble with either organized crime group. Who do you think killed her?”
I shrugged, “It is very early, but it had to involve someone on the inside. Since these ladies did not take you up on the offer to go straight, it might be any of them. You might know of a few that could narrow that down, but I think if GrandPa, Pauline, and a homicide detective ask the right questions, we might reach that same short list. I hate narrowing a list too early. I might miss something.”
Pink Lady winked, “Then I will not suggest anyone.”
Suddenly, the door burst open and Anna Hill came into the room. She exclaimed, “Oh! I had no idea the police were here. This is your open door time. Should I come back?”
Pink Lady chuckled, “You are already here. Detective Staff Sgt. Yeggs and I have a plan for later today, so what is your need?”
Anna’s voice was a little shaky. “As Jochebed learns more English, more strange tidbits come into play. When she and Tyler were at the mission headquarters, some people who were sold into human slavery had been rescued. Jochebed found one of them who spoke a dialect near hers. This woman pulled out a cellphone and showed Jochebed the birthday cake girl video. Pink Lady, what am I to do? I cannot escape my past. The entire world knows.”
Pink Lady said, “We may find even more problems like that closer to home. You never wanted to cause your mother harm by suing her, but pressing charges for making child pornography may send a message. But once that happens, people who do not already know will know. In the meantime, we have someone in the room here that gives great bear hugs. I guarantee that you will feel better even though the circumstances have not changed.”
I walked over and gave Anna my gentlest of bear hugs. I did not pull out all the stops, leaving some in reserve for future hugs. After a while, I felt her tension subside. She said, “I could get used to this. Can you teach Tyler how to do it?”
I joked, “Tyler seems to be more of a teddy bear. You have to be a real bear to give these kinds of bear hugs.”
Pink Lady admonished me, “You can at least give the rudimentary lessons, but I will admit that Scrambled is far from the bear hugger that you are.”
So, what did I have on the “Madam murder,” hit in the head by a falling gargoyle? It seemed staged, but I needed my engineer friend to check out the roof and the damaged gargoyle. It was a slim chance of being an accident. As for the murderer, it could be either the Leafy Greens or the Rotten Apples cleaning up things after Pink Lady left a void. I’ll let Lt. Tagliolini and George Evident deal with that, at least for the Rotten Apples. Detective Wolfe of Stout County and Tuesday Wednesday, Jim’s wife, can follow up with the Leafy Greens. But in either case, it means that the “no-man’s-land” rule would have been violated. Of course, there is always the idea that a rival from within did it or a rival that we do not know about. Or even a customer that did not get the experience they were promised. Then, the only inside job was letting him on the roof.
That afternoon, GrandPa, Pauline and I were interviewing former employees of Lisa Porter, otherwise known as Redheaded Lizzie. Of the thirty ladies, less than half were there because this was a wake-up call, and they needed out of the business. It was odd. GrandPa and Pauline each had six ladies who they could not read, but four of each of their six were different. The enigmas that confused both of them were Susie Wong and Jane Grabar. They recommended to Pink Lady that the baker’s dozen could be moved to a less secure facility, but Wong and Grabar needed to either be broken in an interrogation or taken far away. The others should probably eventually need to be released to their own agendas.
My interviews were very illuminating. Almost everyone talked about how there were three redheads in town. Okay, now only two with Redheaded Lizzie eliminated. In thinking through those that I interviewed, the only flaming redhead was Jane Grabar. In her interview, she told me to ask Envy Apple, the only one to mention that redhead by name. Envy was a strawberry blonde, but she used a wash to make it almost glow and for special events, she would weave LED lights into her hair to ensure that it glowed.
But all other ladies mentioned Jane Grabar in that she was dissatisfied with the way Redheaded Lizzie was operating the brothel. Jane wanted to expand, and she wanted to open a fantasy package where Dads could pay top dollar for their sons to get the fantasy of their choice, like birthday cake girl. I was preparing myself emotionally and mentally for the next bear hug with Anna Hill. These ladies had seen all her fantasy videos. And Jane even suggested that they stay at the house on the county line and she would run the place. Only a few heard her say that. When the half that wanted out were vocal about taking Pink Lady’s offer, Jane and Susie and the others all came along, leaving the dead body on the steps in front of the house, never having reached her morning newspaper. Lizzie was old school and very punctual. She was found a few hours later by a jogger who thought something looked off.
My engineer friend, Roy Anderven, confirmed that the gargoyle had been tampered with prior to the fateful day. There was supposed to be a safety ring that went around the structural beam. It was missing and the gargoyle hit its target so well, it did not shatter as the murderer wished. It was clear that the safety ring had been removed ahead of time. But even then, pulling the pin to release the gargoyle would have caused the gargoyle to put pressure on the pin, making it impossible for a woman to do it, too much weight.
I showed Roy a list of customer names for Jane Grabar, and he did not know any of them, but he knew one on Susie Wong’s list. He was an engineer with their rival engineering firm in Tracy. Of all the engineers, Mike Morgan was known for cutting corners. It was a weak connection, but it was something.
I figured that Organized Crime could follow up on the naughty boys and ladies in the area. I was about to sweat Jane, Susie and Mike. One of them would break. Of course, it was Mike, all talk, little action, and none when it looked like he would do hard time. He had modified the gargoyle and he place a counterweight to keep it balanced until the pin was released. Then, with it perfectly balanced, a little shove was all that was necessary. And both Susie and Jane did the shove together. Susie’s customer was something Jane needed, and she was willing to give a promotion to second in command to get what she needed.
In checking in with Organized Crime, the Lieutenant told me that Envy Apple wanted to be hands on. She dreamed up the idea on her own to be the new madam in Tracy since there was a void.
Most of those old “friends” of Pink Lady, who flunked their interviews, begged to be interviewed again once Jane and Susie were arrested. They were holding out, thinking Jane Grabar would be the next madam, not knowing she had killed Lizzie. They loved the idea of the fantasy high priced experiences. Pink Lady allowed them to stay, but under very careful surveillance.
My next bear hug with Anna was long with a lot of sobbing. In a way, the fantasy idea they got from the videos of her had led to someone being killed.
And don’t worry about me giving women, other than my family, bear hugs. My wife, Glyce, has thought about selling my services. We might both be able to retire.
Fannie Porter was the madam of a brothel in San Antonio, Texas. Often, she hid Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when they were in town, but Lisa Porter wanted the nickname Redheaded Lizzie. Red Light Lizzie was a madam in New York City in the 1860s and 1870s. Her rival was Jane the Grabber, Hester Jane Haskins. They both had men and women travel upstate New York to encourage young ladies to go to the big city for work. If that did not work, they lured them into bars and used a knockout drug to “Shanghai” them into prostitution. There was a competition between these two madams, both wanting to be the most powerful in NYC.
An Envy Apple is basically a red apple with yellow undertones. I just dreamed up the idea about the LED lights but in doing research on it, a lot of people do it these days.
Mark, you made me chuckle a lot! Like: “She was found a few hours later by a jogger who thought something looked off.” You’re a funny guy, and you even use engineering in humor. 🤓
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You are correct. Engineers are not known for their humor.