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.
It was the day before Thanksgiving Day and Jim had the helm on his own. My father wanted the family to meet at our house for a family Thanksgiving lupper on Wednesday. A lupper is halfway between lunch and supper. The problem was that on Thanksgiving Day, Poached and I had call duty. Maeve had a huge meal planned that might take all day at the mission. Pink Lady was going to run her bus service from several locations, the mission, the mission extension at Lily the Pink Enterprises, and every nursing home and residential rehab center in the city and the community centers in the poor sections of town. Amy G. Dala and Ralph E. were even involved. They found lists of the best ways to cook a turkey and they were trying the top five and asking people to do taste tests for an official Tracy top five list. And no one knew either of them could cook. And then, the bakery was going to be overloaded all weekend. Thus, Wednesday, or next week. If next week, why bother? Besides the kids and many of the adults who taught at the university had the day off.
My Dad and Maeve were there. We had the five of us and Jemima was there. Then Scrambled and Pink Lady had their three boys with their date, fiancée, and wife with baby. Counting Scarlett Ibis Yeggs, the daughter of Callie and Poached, that made seventeen in our humble home. We set up the kitchen table as the young lovers table, letting the children sit in the dining room at the big table. The young lovers being Boaz and Sandy (dating), Otto and Zuzka (engaged), Poached and Callie (married with child), and Easter and Jemima (engaged). It afforded Callie the means to disappear with Iby if she needed to breast feed.
And the Iby was a strange conversation when they told my Dad, known as Grand Dad. Poached said they would call her Iby. Grand Dad said, “What does the I.B. stand for?” Poached said, “No, Iby, short for Ibis. Pronounce it like Ivy. Scarlett might sound like the lady from that old movie.” Grand Dad said, “Okay, not Scarlett, but what does the I.B. stand for?” Poached wrote it on a piece of paper and handed it to Grand Dad and he said, “That is the strangest name I ever heard of!” That coming from a man who named his sons Scrambled and Deviled Yeggs. We shiver thinking of what our half-sibling will be named since Maeve is pregnant and due soon.
When Otto and Zuzka showed up, everyone was there. Everything was there, except for the special guest for the evening. I checked the oven, thinking that the turkey should be done and the foil seal over the roasting pan looked like there was a turkey inside, but the roasting pan only had the giblets and the drippings. No turkey.
I called Poached over to discuss that we first had to find the turkey if it was able to be found or the Thanksgiving meal was off. And second, we had to figure out who had taken it.
While Poached mentioned that we had two of the three ex-cons in the family with us at the house, one of them, Grand Dad, walked up. “You two are up to something. I know something is wrong. Tell me. It’s my idea for this family gathering. What’s wrong?”
I cleared my throat, “Dad, someone here has stolen the Thanksgiving Turkey.”
Grand Dad laughed, “And you are suspecting me? I am flattered, but that would ruin my party. And please do not suspect Otto. He and Zuzka just got here, a little late. Zuzka had some project management paperwork to update, and Otto was tasked with cleaning the ovens before the big baking push after the holiday. Tomorrow is all Thanksgiving dinner for everyone at Lily the Pink, with some going to the mission, but they have so many orders for this weekend, they will have to have every oven going 24 hours a day. I have every motive to not mess with the turkey. I can clearly give Otto an alibi. Deviled, I think you need to look closer to home.”
I asked, “What do you mean?”
Grand Dad smiled, “You and Glyce grounded Blaise. You have cancelled his ‘science’ experiments, even threatening to send him to prison for domestic terrorism. He is a smart kid that gets bored. He is smart enough not to ruin Thanksgiving, but he does not feel that he has been treated fairly.”
“The District Attorney told Sophia that she had enough to press charges! How is that not treating him fairly?” I retorted.
The old ex-con nodded in understanding. “Then, we need to do some phone calls. Let’s find the turkey. Let’s salvage a family dinner. And then you and Glyce and I can have a private meeting, just the three of us. Where could Blaise keep the turkey refrigerated?”
Poached and I nodded. But then Poached said, “Even if we find it, we have to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. It would have to be warmed back up and sliced. We still need to make the old family recipe for turkey dressing. I can throw that together and get it into the oven. How do we let Blaise not know that he is under investigation and keep everybody busy, while Uncle Deviled and I detect and cook?”
Grand Dad laughed, “A family corn hole tournament. We’ll divide into teams by drawing names out of the hat, but I will palm Blaise and Sophia to be a team. Their dislike for each other is what caused this. Maybe if they can find some team chemistry, it might help. We can have everyone playing except for the three of us. I will run the tournament, and you two better find that turkey.”
I helped Poached find the ingredients, since it was our kitchen and not his. Glyce had baked the cornbread and set aside stale bread. She had even chopped the celery. Poached fried two pounds of bacon hoping that was enough and then he mixed that in with the rest of the ingredients, adding enough turkey drippings to make it the right consistency. By the time he had it in the oven, he went in search of me.
I had emptied the deep freezer and no turkey. It took me a while packing everything back in. We had a spare refrigerator in the garage for chilling soft drinks and punch for parties. A police detective could not have anyone going home drunk from one of his parties and most of our parties were either with church friends or parties for the kids.
No turkey. Then I remembered that we had a college dorm room refrigerator for our sports tournaments, like the corn hole thing that was on-going. But that was no good, Easter had taken that one to the storm chaser break room. As I wondered where the turkey might be, I thought to check Easter’s room anyway. With having the entire week off, he had brought the small refrigerator home. There were several energy drinks next to it. Inside, wrapped in foil, with the breastbone removed, was the turkey. I rushed it to the kitchen as Poached was removing the dressing from the oven. The hot oven was just the ticket. I needed it warm, but not hot. I sliced better warm. Hot turkey made lousy slices. We laughed thinking that the corn hole tournament contestants were probably thinking we were cooling the turkey to slice it, when we were heating it up. While I prepared the turkey for the table, it bothered me that Blaise had used a refrigerator in Easter’s room, implicating Easter in the scheme.
I heard the groans as the team of Jemima and Otto were eliminated, along with Sandy and Easter. Jemima and Otto had been soundly defeated which put the team of Zuzka and Boaz in the first seed position. From all over the house, you could hear them chant “Team Zeeee! Woot! Woot! Woot!” The other first round losing team was Glyce and Callie, one pregnant and the other distracted with Grand Dad and Maeve playing with Iby. But they made enough points to be the highest scoring loser from the seeding round and the joy of being the Team Z punching bag. Oddly, Scrambled and Pink Lady were teamed together. They would play Blaise and Sophia. Blaise should have been distracted, but he got his share of points. They defeated their aunt and uncle to face Team Z in the finals. Suddenly Boaz and Zuzka had a cold stretch. Nothing dropped in for a score and Blaise and Sophia barely won. The two children acted like they liked the idea of being a team, although, at the beginning, they had begged Grand Dad to shuffle the slips of paper and start the team making process all over.
As the victors came into the dining room, Blaise was suddenly shocked to see the turkey on the table. Everyone else was simply too hungry to wonder why it had taken so long. Glyce yelled, “Everybody wash your hands!” Everyone split up between bathrooms and the kitchen sink. Glyce washed in the kitchen and quietly asked me what the meeting was going to be about. I told her that I did not wish to spoil Grand Dad’s surprise. If I had said any more, it would have spoiled the lupper, which was more like an early dinner at this point.
Blaise was pensive and quiet throughout the evening. Callie and Poached left immediately after the meal to get Iby in bed. Scrambled and his crew left for Lily the Pink with a very busy day for the mission’s big meal. Easter took Jemima to her home for the same reason. Her family was heavily involved all weekend. I suggested that Sophia and Blaise should each take a shower in the separate bathrooms. That left Maeve, Grand Dad, Glyce and me to have our meeting. Glyce hated it, but she went along with it. In a few moments of stepping away from the dinner table, Grand Dad and I had set some of it up.
Nothing would happen on Thanksgiving day, but early Friday morning, project “Scare the fire out of Blaise” would start with Officer Jayne Crane who would show up at our door with an arrest warrant for Blaise, duly signed by the DA, as if he had the authority to send someone straight to the penitentiary. Grand Dad called the prison and had everything set up there. Big Red Macintosh Apple would be in a solitary cell. They would do everything to Blaise at the entry as if he were a prisoner, but they did not have a set of coveralls small enough. I had to make sure he was wearing sweats when he was arrested, with no drawstrings. Blaise would be roughly tossed into Big Red’s cell. Blaise would later admit that he thought it was a joke until he heard the lock clank behind him and he knew he was not getting out.
Even though he kept screaming that all this was not fair, he had a steady flow of tears.
After a few minutes of sobbing, Big Red asked, “Hey, kid? There’s only one bunk in here. Do you mind sleeping on the floor?” Blaise did not reply. “Kid, what are you in here for?”
Blaise said, “They said I stole the Thanksgiving turkey, but all I did was hide it, and they found it without me telling them where it was. Why am I here?”
Big Red said, “The warden said that my cell mate was going to be a domestic terrorist.”
Blaise started back with the sobbing. “I didn’t do it! Honest!”
Big Red laughed, “That’s what they all say in here. You’ll fit in just fine. I doubt if you have been in prison before, but have you had anyone in your family go to prison?”
Blaise replied, “My Grand Dad was here along with my cousin, Rotten, they call him Otto these days. And my GrandPa was here.”
Big Red asked, “Are you one of the Yeggs?”
Blaise nodded. From outside the door, Red Delicious yelled, “Great, another Yeggs is here. Play your cards right and I’ll teach you how to be a first-class crook.”
Big Red whispered, “Don’t listen to him. I don’t think you want to be here.”
“Does anybody?” Blaise asked.
“Your Grand Dad tried to do everything that he could to stay here. He was a sullen hardened criminal who carried guilt like you would not believe on his shoulders. I hear that he found Jesus.”
Blaise nodded. Big Red continued, “I hear Otto found Jesus too. Your GrandPa helped me when he was here. I miss him.” There was a pause. “You know, I said everyone here denies that they ever did anything wrong, but the first step in recovery, the first step to freedom is to admit that you have sinned. Who have you sinned against, Kid?”
Blaise shrugged, “I don’t know. Everything was okay until my sister went to the DA. They said they would use mercy. Then I hid the turkey, but I didn’t steal it and I kept it in a refrigerator. I even partially deboned it.”
Big Red snickered, “A polite crook. I like that.”
Blaise protested, “But I am not a crook.”
“Then why did your sister go to the DA?”
“That was forgiven. That is inadmissible.”
Big Red gave Blaise a dirty look. “Listen, Blaise Yeggs, the terrorism charge was for tainting moisturizing cream with pepper and other irritants. That could have started a nation-wide panic. Being shown mercy and forgiveness does not mean that nothing happened, but you put glue in your sister’s hair. You put itching powder inside her softball glove. You put a dead mouse in her ballet slippers. You unscrewed the top of the pepper shaker before you handed it to her. What is it between you and Sophia?”
Blaise was shocked that a prison inmate knew all this stuff. He said nothing.
Big Red shouted, “What is it between you and Sophia?”
Blaise began to cry again. “She has never liked me.”
Big Red sat on the floor next to Blaise. “When you came into this world, Sophia was two and a half years old. She was the baby and now she was not the baby anymore. She was jealous of the attention you got. Then by the time you could play with her, so that she realized that you could be a friend, you did mean things to her. Your sins are many, Blaise Yeggs.”
Blaise protested, “Those were all science experiments.”
Big Red grinned, “Those were not science experiments, unless the scientific premise was to see how quickly your sister would scream. Didn’t take long, did it?”
Blaise shook his head. “They told me that a terrorist could be held a long time before habeas corpus would take effect.”
Big Red shrugged, “I don’t know about that. I know they did a few things expediently after 9/11 but I wouldn’t know what the rules are on that. I am not a terrorist. I am just here to offer you a way out.”
Blaise cheered up a little. “Really?!”
Big Red nodded, “It may take some time, but Jesus is your only way out.”
Blaise shrugged, “Oh, that way out. I have to die here and then go to heaven.”
Big Red shook his head, “No, you have to really rely on Jesus, you never know when you might get out of here, but getting out of the rut that you are in is the important thing. Do you want to rely on Jesus as if it were a matter of life or death. At the moment, it might be the matter of how long you are here, a few weeks, a few years, or the rest of your life.”
Blaise asked, “What do I have to do?”
Big Red said, “For the next little while, let’s just sit and read the Bible.” They sat and read the Bible and discussed what they read. Big Red went through the four Spiritual Laws, but he covered all the backup Scriptures as well as the basic verses. Blaise knew all of that anyway, but he had to get it from his head to his heart.
Blaise had not cried for a long time, but then Big Red asked how he felt about his sister and the tears started to flow again. Blaise said, “I never did anything nice for my sister, and two days ago, we were on the same corn hole team…”
Big Red nodded, “And you and Sophia won the tournament.”
Blaise stopped for a moment. He wondered again how this prisoner knew so much. Then he asked, “Are you an angel?”
Big Red laughed, “No, Blaise, I’m an inmate here, but I run a Christian outreach within the prison. Now, back to Sophia. How do you feel about her?”
Blaise started tearing up. “I have sinned against her countless times. She wants to be alone and I took that personally. It is just her temperament, but I made sure she would pay attention to me. Now, Mom is pregnant, and I am about to not be the youngest for the first time ever, just like you said about Sophie. I won’t be the baby. I will be the one that caused all kinds of trouble. No one will love me.”
Big Red put his arm over Blaise’s shoulder. “Jesus loves you, but do you love Him?”
“Until we started reading the Bible together, I never gave Jesus much thought, but for the past couple of hours, Jesus is the only one that I have thought of, except for the people in my family that I have hurt.”
Big Red then asked Blaise if he wanted to pray. Blaise already knew the salvation prayer and said it out loud. He admitted he was a sinner and that Jesus had died for his sins. He begged Jesus to come into his life.
Big Red yelled, “Hey, Guard, he’s ready, quicker than I thought.” Big Red turned to Blaise and said, “I had a little play on words going. I said that Jesus would get you out of here but pronounce it ‘Hey-Soos.’ The guard’s name is Jesus, and he is from Puerto Rico. Your parents, your Grand Dad, and your brother and sister should be in the warden’s office.”
Blaise asked, “But I never learned who you are.”
“I’m Big Red Macintosh Apple. Your father put me away for killing a man. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I became a Christian, and since then, I have witnessed to a lot of inmates. I keep working on my Dad, Red Delicious, who tried to recruit you to be a crook. He agreed to say that, but he does not want to leave his life of crime. And Blaise, your commitment to Jesus is permanent. There is no turning back. You have to rely on Jesus for the rest of your life.”
With that, Jesus, the guard, came into the cell and escorted Blaise to the warden’s office. Before saying anything to anyone, Blaise ran across the room and hugged Sophie and said he was sorry. They both had tears on their faces.
Blaise then turned to his mother and said, “Mom, can you get me some more of those theology books from the college library? And I want a couple of study Bibles for Christmas. Find out which translation Big Red uses. I liked that one.”
Glyce could not speak. Her nickname is short for nitroglycerin, but she did not explode. She was shaken, but only tears flowed. She would get working on Blaise’s Christmas wish list as soon as we got home.
Of course, Poached was referring to Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind.
As for the confusion over “I.B.”: When our younger son was born in Heidelberg, Germany, I called my mother to let her know. Our son’s middle name is “Ian.” Each time I said the name, she asked, “What does the ‘N’ stand for?” I repeated the name three times with the same result. I finally spelled it. Then she said, “I don’t like his initials. Never let him use those initials. One of those in this town was too much.” The person she was referring to was an old pastor at the church and the pastor’s son still went to their church.
And this is dedicated to Scared Straight, that started at Rahway Prison in New Jersey, and other similar programs. I doubt if they take eleven-year-old boys, but they do good work in having inmates counsel juvenile offenders, hopefully scaring them into a life of following the straight and narrow.
And to investigate different ways that our church could spread the Gospel, I once went to a jail. When you have emptied your pockets and stepped into the first chamber, the door will lock behind you before the inner door will open. The loud resounding clank of the lock behind me caused me to gasp, even though I knew I would be leaving within the next couple of hours. In talking with others who had worked in prison ministry, they had the same sensation.
And in past Deviled Yeggs episodes, Red MacIntosh was sent to prison after Deviled Yeggs led the investigation. I have written that Red Delicious, the crime boss, had a similar fate at the hands of Deviled Yeggs (but I have not written that story). Big Red Mac became a Christian, much to his father’s disagreements, and Big Red started a ministry within the prison walls. These facts (in these fictional stories) have been mentioned in little pieces over the years.