Bunch of Bunco continued – A Deviled Yeggs Mystery

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 me.

To bring you up to date from our last report, link here, Poached found yet another dead body, a rich woman, Bunny Cole, in the ritzy part of town, in the bushes next to the street in front of her house.  She was coshed by a sap probably filled with metallic dice with inset precious and semi-precious stones.  No one in the neighborhood knew anything.  Her husband had a great alibi, and he said she was supposed to be in Florida with the time of death corresponding to when someone picked her up, or failed to pick her up, and take her to the airport.  It looked like a mugging, but it did not feel like it.

Amy G. Dala, president of the Hoity-Toity Golf Club, gave us a lot of gossip to go on.  Bunny Cole was running a high stakes bunco parlor at her house, and the dice just might be loaded.  With the rules of play, I was getting a headache trying to figure out if that was even possible.  After each round, you were changing partners.  Each round of the six was looking for a different number.  How many loaded dice would you need?  And how many partners would you need to manipulate the outcomes of every table?

Poached got a warrant to search Bunny’s cell phone records, but her provider claimed the need for privacy, willing to go to jail for contempt.  The judge who had issued the warrant was still working with them.

Jim and I interviewed the casual gamblers who gossip had said had been to a BunCo bunco party, at least those on Amy’s list.  We did not ask who might be on the BunCo team of crooks.  We asked who the winners had been when they played.  Every list was a little different, but every list had at least one of four people, but very few lists had two.  Oddly, Bunny was not one of them, but Amy had said that she felt Bunny’s cut on the gambling paid her house note and most of the grocery bill.  And there were a lot of grocery expenses just hosting the parties.  Groceries and liquor store, which might explain some of the lack of catching the cheating.

But besides a modest cover charge for the alcohol consumption, not enough to actually pay for the alcohol, most of the money added to the initial pot went to the lady with the most buncos and the lady with the most wins.  And the winnings were modest for the Hoity-Toity crowd, even the renegade gamblers away from the club.  No more than $5,000 was won any weekend.

But then, it dawned on us how you could make more money with loaded bunco dice.  If you had the high rollers at your table, not even the head table, especially not the head table, then you made a side bet.  Let’s say that you are in the fourth round and you score with fours.  Let’s also say that you have one or two loaded dice in play that always roll a six.  Then you bet the high roller that they will roll more 6s than 4s, or something silly like that.  Each round is over when the head table scores 21.  If you have a loaded die or two at the head table to prevent getting the necessary die to score, then there is no limit to the scores at the other table, providing the teammate a chance to prod and cajole the high roller into doubling down.  You would not want to roll a winning roll yourself.  You would want the loaded dice, loaded to lose, in the hands of the mark.

The next trick would be to rotate the number that comes up on the loaded dice.  If the game had 6s more often than anything else, someone might catch the pattern.  Maybe someone did catch the pattern and Bunny had to go, as in permanently.

With our new line of questioning, we got mostly evasive answers, there was a certain gamblers code with the Hoity-Toity club members, especially after the Monopoly cheating scandal.  They closed in ranks, but after repeating the same questions, just changing the wording a bit, a couple of people cracked, and hinted at some of the side bets that they had witnessed.  In some cases, it was at the table next to theirs.  We were starting to get a picture of the dynamics of BunCo’s bunco of bunco.  We did not have the mechanism of how they could switch dice without anyone noticing, but our field of suspects was narrowing.

If only Poached could get the information from the carrier.  Probably Bunny Cole’s cell phone was at the bottom of the river by now.  Why would the killer keep it?  The dice and tankards were our smoking gun if we could just get the link to who was going to pick up Bunny Cole and take her to the airport.  And if the scheduled person did a hand-off to another person, then we needed to find out if the other person had lost a bundle on a side bet.  Whoever the killer was, they would want to hang onto the dice.  That would be their pot of gold.

While we were waiting for the halls of justice to release the information or throw some executives from the cellphone provider in jail, I turned my attention to something that was bothering me, the flirting between Amy G. Dala and our Captain, Al Hart, or as we call him “All Heart.”  Funny, we started calling him that because he acted like he had no heart at all.  Now, he showed a full range of emotion, and he had a softer side, all after his wife died.

I went to the Hoity-Toity club, leaving Jim and Poached to work on getting the cellphone information.  Our only option without that recent call list was to sweat Nate Cole, Bunny’s husband and the women that we suspected as being accomplices in the rigged game.  I told Jim and Poached to keep pushing and I would talk to Mashie Niblick and Amy G. Dala.

Mashie, working as the greenskeeper, never gave up his job as my confidential informant, but he was not too helpful.  He worked strictly the golf side of things.  The gossip around the locker room might point to only one of the ladies that we suspected of being in on the loaded dice racket.  And his information was not a clear indication of wrong doing.  Her husband was bragging about having some extra cash and he was doing side hustles on the golf side, not really legal per state law, but in the realm of the type of hustles that the police turned a blind eye to.  One of those laws that is only enforced when you really want something else.  It gave us something that we could use, but it might also tip our cards so that the accomplices might get their story straight before we called them in.

Amy had little to add.  That’s when I got around to asking my “gossip” question.  “Amy, rumor has it that you went out on a date with Captain Hart last weekend.”

Amy laughed, “I was waiting for this.  They talk about not kissing and telling, but I don’t care about that as long as I can trust the one that I am telling.”

“Okay, then, so how did it go?”

“Last Friday, I had my driver drop me off at the precinct.”

I interrupted immediately, before she really said anything.  “You drive yourself almost everywhere.  Why use the company driver?”

She winked, “I wanted the excuse of having your boss drive me back to the building.  My apartment is the top floor of the building.  I wanted to know what he would do.  Gisele and I have become friends.  I work with a charity that has benefited Lilith and I already knew Gisele from the times that the club has been a pivotal point in one of your investigations and a couple of the robberies at the club.  Gisele recently spent three months with Captain Hart after his wife died, when she had planned for three weeks.  She said he was clingy.  He never got amorous, but he did not want to let go either.  From a social sense, your captain is a basket case, according to Gisele.”

“So, let me tell my story without interruption, Detective.”  I nodded in agreement.

“Okay, we left the precinct in his private car.  He was all thumbs.  He asked me where I wanted to go for dinner.  I said wherever he felt comfortable.  He argued that I was one of the richest ladies in town and I would expect something fancy.  I explained that before my dot com took off, I ate peanut butter sandwiches, too poor to add the jelly.  We settled on a high-end burger joint.  It provided us with some corner booth privacy.  No one knew either one of us.  Neither one of us was dressed fancy.  We blended in perfectly.  Now, even though I could buy and sell the precinct a few times over, I still expected him to pick up the tab and he had no problem with that.  Our conversation over dinner went the gamut.  We covered every taboo subject.  We mostly agreed on politics.  He is religious, borderline devout, and you know me.  I am carefree on that one.  You have tried, but I have laughed you off for the most part.  You get on my nerves, but only on rare occasions.  The captain was nice about it.  He talked about his children and his late wife, but when it looked like he was about to lose it, I would change the subject or ask the waiter to bring more fries to the table.  Oh, how my stomach ached the rest of the night.  Since he was paying and I ordered, I had to eat them.

She continued, “After the meal, he suggested the river walk.  That helped the digestion.  I think most of the other people thought we were father and daughter.  We walked to the ice cream parlor, as if I needed more food.  I ordered a single scoop of vanilla in a cup.  I am usually a banana split type person, but I could not eat more than that.  We walked that off on the way back to the car.  He drove me home.  I introduced him to the guards and without him noticing took his photo from all angles so that he could be added to the trusted list to have access to my apartment without an appointment.  Detective, you will still have to check in with security.  I like you, but …  Al was impressed in my penthouse apartment being unimpressive.  If that makes sense.  Most of the top floor is simply roof for the office building.  I have a pigeon coop on the roof.  And I grow a few potted plants, half flowers and half vegetables.  But the apartment tour took no time at all.  I showed him my minimalistic kitchen and he was shocked to know that I cook my own food most of the time.  I only go out to dinner for business and the rare social occasion, and even more rare, a date.  I showed him my lady cave where I have wall to wall computer screens and my access to the computers and servers throughout the building.  No one needs to report progress to me.  I have access to everyone’s work, and I leave love notes.  You know, what would make what they are doing better.  I rarely criticize.  Programming is an art form.  The only failure is not getting the software to do what we are required to have it do.  The lady cave is the largest room.  Then I took him to my library.  You would not believe this, but I am a dot com millionaire who recognizes that one electromagnetic pulse, an EMP, can fry all the computer chips.  I need to read, so I have hardbacks, paperbacks, and rare books from around the world, over 10,000 at last count.  I will never read them all, but I have one next to my bed every night.  Al was enthralled by the library.  I opened a hidden panel in the bookshelves and showed him into my bedroom.  I did not let him have the code for that maneuver.  I turned to him and told him that this was my bedroom.  Besides the bathroom, he had seen the rooms, but if he wanted to see more of me, he only had to ask.  He grunted as if he did not understand.  I started to remove my blouse.  He gasped.  He started to weep.  And then he said that he wasn’t ready and may never be.  I buttoned my blouse back and rode with him down to the lobby.  I kissed him on the cheek.  Al had regained his composure as he walked to his car.  The guard said that we did not take very long, and I told the guard to let him go up to the apartment anytime he wished and then call me.  I am usually in the lady cave anyway unless I am at the club.”

I interrupted, but it seemed she was finished. “What is your story, Amy?”

Amy huffed, “We’ve known each other for a couple of years now.  It sure took you a while to ask.  My parents were extreme introverts.  My mother worked from home and my father was a computer programmer.  He worked half the time from home and the other half going to the office.  My name on my birth certificate is not Amy G. Dala.  At four or five, my parents realized that I was either angry or happy all the time.  The shrinks would call it bipolar, but I was simply me.  My parents felt that home schooling over the computer was the best option, keeping my emotional roller coaster away from the other children and maybe less embarrassing for them.  They officially changed my name to Amy G. Dala, which spells amygdala, for two reasons.  It was more descriptive of me and second, if I went off the deep end and hurt other people, the family name would still be safe.  My lady cave is designed to look like my bedroom growing up except the lady cave is without windows.  And as for your wife, she and I are a lot alike, but she had a chance to interact with other humans before college.  I think I may be worse when my emotions get shaken, but for the most part, I stay in my lady cave.  But then, I might be worse because I do not have someone who gives bear hugs.

“Without supervision, I never took summers off, going to school online seven days a week, not having a clue what day of the week it was.  Can you imagine the culture shock of learning to read a calendar in college?  I hated it when my parents took me to the National Parks or the beaches on vacation.  Sure, I saw other humans, but we did not interact.  I wanted to stay in school, looking at a computer screen twelve hours or more each day.  By the age of ten, I was computer programming and hacking.  We only had the feds come by once, and I had a nice man explain that I should not do what I did.  I was just looking around, learning.  My father’s comments were to not get caught the next time.  And by the way, my parents died in a car crash when I was in college.  I traced the family tree, and I was an only child of only children, and no cousins in sight.  I am very interested to observe how Blaise adjusts to high school and college.  If I may, can I be an honorary aunt?  By fifteen, I had finished all the high school requirements.  I was officially off to college, so I know what Blaise may experience.  My parents suggested one particular college professor’s program.  It was a lot like what I did from home.  The professor – I will not use his name – sat me down and told me to program something.  A week later, he came by and made two comments.  First, my programming was drivel.  I did not know enough about the world, especially what sells, in order to make a difference.  He assigned courses for me to take online, never leaving my programming station.  Second, he said that my emotions seemed to track my programming success.  When my programming was successful, I made a nuisance of myself by distracting everyone else with my dancing, singing, etc.  When my programming was filled with bugs, I threw a tantrum.  The other students would take a break and leave the building.  It was me programming and quiet or it was total unacceptable chaos.  The professor had noted that I only ate a meal every other day.  I never left the computer except to go to the bathroom and every three days, to sleep for a few hours in the dorm, shower, and then return to programming.  He asked if I had ever had a boyfriend.  I replied that I hardly knew what a boy was.  He asked if I had ever kissed a boy, dated a boy, made love to a boy.  I said no, no, no.  He asked if I had seen boys and girls kissing on television.  I asked him what a television was.  I may have seen television clips on the computer screen, but never a full TV show.  He added to my assignments to watch some Romantic Comedies on the computer streaming service.  We did not have one, but he showed me how to hack into it.

“I noticed that the professor did his own programming in his office and then he disappeared to a back room used for storage.  There was a twin bed back there where he slept for a few hours.  Over the next week, I completed my short-term assignments, including the RomCom, but I also looked around for videos of boys and girls kissing.  As a result, without knowing what I was seeing, among what I watched was my first porn film.  I went into the professor’s back room, and he was asleep.  I undressed and started to do to him what the video had shown me.  He awoke confused, but he did not say to stop.  I had climbed on top of him when he suddenly seemed to realize that it was me.  He wanted to say no, but he did not.  You see, Detective, I see the frown on your face.  You disapprove, but in this one area, our moral codes differ.  My parents never even provided moral boundaries.  They never explained what a boy was.  My mother, who was home all the time, talked to me twice in those fifteen years:  when I first needed a bra and when I started menstruating.  She told me to deal with the change, but never explained what the change was.  Forget moral implications.  But after a week or two of little trysts with the professor, he said that it had to stop.  I was not yet sixteen.  He grabbed an eighteen-year-old boy from his “classroom” who was equally socially awkward.  He assigned us to date each other and eventually start having sex with him observing our progress.  He observed that I was calm as long as I had someone who loved me, in a physical sense.  But to be honest, I had never been loved by my parents in any sense, never a kiss on the cheek, never a kind word of encouragement, nothing.  They hid me from society and prevented that crucial social development.  But by now, you should know why I did not give you the professor’s name. I have no desire to ruin his reputation.  I got bored with my ‘boyfriend’ and I shopped around, even roaming into the student union stumbling my way into asking for a hook-up.  When my programming was poor, my old boyfriend was the choice.  He was used to that behavior.  When I was happy, it was whomever was at hand.  By the time I graduated, I had learned enough about the world to give the computer world something they needed, becoming a millionaire overnight, and I realized that I did not really have to have sex to regulate my emotions.  I just do it now for the fun of it, but your sermons are starting to have an effect.  Don’t get me wrong.  Your sister-in-law is doing wonderful work at Lily the Pink, and I understand her issues with it.  I would like to settle down to one man and start a family.  With the company’s net worth beyond the half billion, I would have suitors a mile long.  I know that the captain is probably too old, and I think he loves Gisele, if he wanted to start dating again.  Yet, my door is open for him because I promised him it would be.  But I yearn for that next step, a romance.  I know, for you it’s the romance and then the marriage and then the bedroom passions.  As I have said a few times, we differ in that regard, but somehow I have this feeling that I have missed a lot growing up in a man-made cave.”

With more information than I ever imagined, almost none of it helping the investigation much, I went home a little early.

The next day, the cellphone provider delivered the information, quietly, with no fanfare, so they could show their customers that they stood up to the law to protect the security of their customers.  We brought in Evelyn Farmour for questioning.

Evelyn Farmour eventually admitted that she helped Bunny Cole cheat people playing bunco, but her phone call was to ask when Bunny would be back from Florida.  She said Bunny was taking her suitcase out the door as they talked.  The previous call was to Jacqueline Jacks.  After a couple of hours of questioning, she admitted that she was supposed to take Bunny to the airport.  Without telling Bunny of the switch due to a sudden problem of diarrhea, she had her neighbor go to Bunny’s house and meet her at the curb.  Her neighbor was Doris Credulone.  We searched Bunny’s neighborhood and found enough security images at the time of the murder to place Doris at the scene at the right time.

Instead of bringing her in for questioning, we had enough for a search warrant.  We arrested her after we found the tankards and the dice.  The velour bag that the dice were in still had Bunny’s blood on it.

Doris finally confessed to killing Bunny.  Jacqui Jacks had no idea that Doris had been a victim of the scam on a week when Jacqui was not there.  Doris wanted proof that she had been cheated.  When Bunny handed her the dice to put in the car, Doris attacked with two quick blows.

Doris finally figured out how the dice switch was done.  The felt lining had a fake bottom connected to a mechanism in the bottom of the tankard.  If you held the tankard against the table and twisted it counterclockwise, the good dice became trapped in a fold in the felt and the loaded dice appeared.  A clockwise twist hid the loaded dice, and you were back in business with a clean game.

We gave Evelyn and Jacqui over to the Bunco squad and they tracked down the last member of the team.  They would not get the dice until the murder trial was over, but all three ladies took the plea deal: time served, a hefty fine, and weeks and weeks of community service.  It was fun seeing rich women in orange jumpsuits picking up trash along the highway, with my favorite officer in charge of prisoners, Officer Plain Jayne Crane, the Master of Pain.  With the frown on Jayne’s face, I knew she was enjoying it too.

Evelyn and Jacqui finally admitted that Bunny had considered going on a short winning streak.  Her always losing might bring suspicion.  Besides, she was not getting enough off the side bets.  Instead, Doris was such an addicted gambler that she could not believe that she could ever lose.  She killed in order to figure out how they had cheated her.

Credits

Nate Cole, as in Nat King Cole.  Bunny Cole could be shortened to BunCo, but I had a male soldier in my platoon named Bunny Ray, a very good electrician who made it to Sgt. Major before retiring.  And although I was an independent in college, meaning not connected to a Greek fraternity, I was the officer my senior year who escorted the Greek sorority sponsors around so that they could encourage the under classmen.  I know, a tough assignment.  I became friends with a few of those ladies and one was named Honey Bee, engaged to marry a mechanical engineering guy who I knew.  So, having a given name of Bunny is not out of the question.

Doris Credulone: Credulone means gullible in Italian.

I slept once on a bed in the storage room next to the antenna lab for electrical engineering.  They would run experiments for days at a time, and when I needed to get a few hours of sleep before driving to a chemical engineering convention, they let me use it.  I slept by myself with no visitors.

And if you have a problem with gambling, Gambling Anonymous has meetings all over the country.  Go to their website and enter your zip code for the closest meeting to you.

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