Had a Hugh McAdoo– A Mashie Niblick Mystery

I’m Mashie Niblick.  I am the head greenskeeper at the Hoity-Toity Golf Club in the big city of Tracy.  My wife is Pauline Niblick.  She teaches and does research at Tracy Regional University for Science and Technology (T.R.U.S.T.), and she is expecting our first child.  But we also do consulting work for a top secret alphabet organization outside Washington, DC.  Due to the expected child, we have only done code working lately, either creating code systems or breaking other people’s codes.  That is mostly Pauline’s department.  She runs codes by me so that If I could understand and use the system, anybody could do it.

But this story does not start with us at all.

Within the past year, our new home was being constructed, and then Jim Wednesday, a homicide detective in Tracy was attacked, at least his house was badly damaged.  I let him stay in our new home while construction was still on-going.  It was difficult, but they made it work.  Then with them back in their renovated home, we were able to move into our own home.

The story begins with me not there.  I heard about what went on from the participants later on.  It all began with Poached Yeggs inviting a friend to the greens keeping area of the Hoity Toity golf club.  He had met his friend, Skip Nutter, at the Moon Maid Middle School.  Patrolman Skip was a handler in the K-9 squad.  His dog was a beagle named Sugar.  Poached suggested that they could go to the club, in areas where there were no golfers, and maybe Sugar could chase a wild animal instead of sniffing explosives.

As Skip took Sugar off the leash and let her run around free, he turned to Poached, “Poached, do you have any leftover girls from high school.  It has been a long time since I have had a date.  You had so many, and now that your wife just became a mother, I doubt if you need any of your throw aways.”

“What?!  I am a happily married man.  I do not have any throw away girls from high school.”

Skip shook his head smiling, “The guys used to say. ‘Yeah, I see you’re goin’ down the street in your big Cadillac. You got girls in the front, you got girls in the back. Yeah, way in back, you got money in a sack. Both hands on the wheel and your shoulders rared back. Root-doot-doot-doot-doot, do-wah.”

Poached laughed, “Where did you get a line like that?  Sounds like lyrics to an old song.  I mean old enough to be old when my Dad was young.”

Skip shrugged, “I don’t know.  That’s what the guys would say about you.”

Poached corrected him. “Well, the guys were wrong.  I dated them one at a time.  And the Cadillac was a sweet ride, but it was not mine, nor Dads, probably stolen.  In those days, Dad ran errands for Red Delicious, about the time he was caught by my uncle Deviled and sent up the river.  Red Delicious gave Dad the car to deliver stuff and pick up stuff for the Rotten Apple Gang.  The Cadillac was probably stolen with the VIN number filed down or changed.  Dad refused to transport dead bodies, but there might have been money in a sack when I was taking a girl on a date, just not my money, and not Dad’s money either.”

Skip asked, “Why so sensitive?  I mean.  You were a legend in high school.”

Poached nodded, “And my Uncle Deviled told me to stop if I wanted to be a police detective.  I quit dating.  I quit driving the Cadillac.  I started working on making better grades.  I tried to erase that image.”

Skip groaned, “Don’t hold out on me, Poached!  I’m desperate!  You would think that Sugar would be a chick magnet, but the girls come by and play with the dog, and they never notice me on the other end of the leash.  I need a name of a girl with only two legs and your favorite make-out spot.”

Poached laughed, “The only girl that I used to, ummm, date, that is not married or moved away, is Minnie Others.  And we can walk to my favorite make-out spot, but it might not be a good spot anymore.”

Skip brightened, “Wilhelmina Others?  She was a three-sport star, soccer, basketball, and softball.  She’s still single?  What?  She likes girls?”

Poached shrugged, “She liked me.  I don’t know about now.  She is the coach at an all-girls school in the poor section of town in the southeast of Tracy.  The school started off as a charity for unwed mothers or mothers to be, and now they have expanded to any young woman that is in trouble.  They’ve kept a lot of young ladies out of jail.”

Skip perked up, “I will give her a call.  Now, where is this make-out spot that might not be a make-out spot anymore?”

Poached pointed, “Just around the corner.  It was a little recess in the hill that the greenskeeper built a home in.  they buried the home, and they call it the Hobbit Hole.  You enter the home through the second-floor balcony.”

Skip laughed, “This, I’ve got to see!”

At that moment, Sugar started bellowing.  Poached asked, “Does she have the scent of a rabbit or squirrel?”

Skip started running toward the Hobbit Hole, “No, that’s her alert signal for explosives.  It seems we just went on duty.”

They caught up with Sugar at the upper entrance to the Hobbit Hole.  Skip detected that the door was probably wired to an explosive charge.  Sugar was going crazy, so there was a lot of explosives inside.  Skip asked if there was another entrance.  The lower entrance through a tunnel behind the greenskeeper equipment shed was also wired with trip wires and infrared light detectors.

Skip asked, “Any way of seeing what is inside this place?”

Poached led him to the skylight.

Skip crawled around the skylight and determined that it was not wired.  He took out a spyglass and looked down into the Hobbit Hole.  He asked, “Does anybody live here?”

Poached shook his head. “No, Mashie Niblick is the greenskeeper here now.  He moved into a new home a block over from Uncle Deviled’s house.  They moved about the time that Mashie’s wife got pregnant.”

Skip asked, “So, they did not have children when they were here?”

Poached again shook his head, “No, they still don’t.  Pauline is expecting in a couple of months, their first, and maybe their only.  There are some issues there.”

Skip then asked, “So why is there a child’s block set on the floor?”  Poached had no idea.  Skip focused his glass.  “They seem to spell out something.  I HEAR TELL YOU’RE DOING WELL.  Then the next line is GOOD THINGS HAVE COME TO YOU.  Then another line I WISH I HAD YOUR HAPPINESS.”

Poached grabbed his phone, “I’m calling Mashie.  This could be a prank or something very deadly.”

Skip said, “Wait.  There was something blocking the next line, a box or something.  The last line says, ‘AND YOU HAD A HUGH.’ What on earth does that mean?  A man’s name would not have an “a” in front, but if it is a color, or hue, why spell it wrong?”

Poached turned white as a sheet.  “I think we better back off the Hobbit Hole before it blows.  Mashie has a friend in Washington, DC, by the name of Hugh McAdoo.  Within a couple of hours, we are going to have this hill covered in Feds.”

Skip asked, “Why are you calling the former resident?  Should we not call the police?”

Poached said, “I usually call in after finding dead bodies.  With us on top of the Hobbit Hole, the dead body might be you or me.  Why don’t you call the police while I call Mashie?”

While they started waiting, Poached’s cellphone rang.  A few seconds later, he disconnected.  “Skip, you have the short wait all on your own.  Callie just took Scarlet Ibis to the doctor.  I need to see what that’s about.  Maybe a first time mother being over protective.”  Skip only sputtered, not knowing what to say.  Not knowing if he should fuss for being left alone with a huge bomb or if he should wish Poached well.

I showed up along with Amy G. Dala, club president, in less than a minute.  We were in a meeting at the guest house next to the Hobbit Hole.  Skip repeated to me what the message had said.  I called my parttime boss, Hugh McAdoo, and tried to get him to not come to the big city of Tracy.  Something said to me that the assailant meant no harm to anyone until Hugh showed up.  I had no hard evidence, but it did not feel right.

Amy called the front desk of the guest house, and they started an orderly evacuation.  It was slow in that those with lengthy stays needed to be booked in a hotel nearby.  It might not be golf season, but the club was hosting a series of 50s, 60s, and 70s music concerts.  With the Monopoly gone, the club needed a new identity, and with all the cheaters at gambling, why not try something that has no gambling at all.  But I am sure there will be bets on whether a 60s teen idol breaks a hip getting on stage or if that female singer from the 70s falls off the stage … again.  By the time Amy had the evacuation started in an orderly fashion, the bomb squad, the supervisor of the K-9 crew, and Deviled Yeggs and Jim Wednesday were all present.

I asked Deviled, “We have no dead bodies, so why are you here?”

Deviled shrugged, “The expectant mothers were meeting at our house, now that Glyce has joined the club.  Callie’s little girl started throwing up.  Jochebed and Anna Hill drove Callie to T.R.U.S.T., and Glyce, Maeve, and your wife, Pauline stayed to clean up.  I wonder when the expectant mother’s club will be changed to the young mother’s club?  I jumped at the chance to be somewhere else.  Jim was the one on call.  At this point, no one has entered the Hobbit Hole.  We don’t know what we’ll find when we do.  There might be a dead body, either before or after.”

Lt. Tagliolini yelled from behind Deviled, “Shut up, Yeggs!  Nobody is dying today.”

Deviled looked up rather than behind him, “Thank you, Lord, for the reassurance, but I will hang around, just in case.  Amen.”

Lt. Tagliolini, head of Organized Crime, laughed.  “Just like you to find humor in this.”

Deviled replied, “There is something humorous about this.  I just can’t put my finger on it.”

Skip spoke up.  “It has bothered me ever since Sugar alerted on an explosive scent.  The message is in children’s blocks beneath the skylight.  If anyone entered by the door or by the tunnel behind the equipment shed, just a worker wanting to hide in the tunnel to smoke some grass, no one gets to read the message.  If you are sending a message, would you not make sure the message was safe from the explosion?  Why blow up the message?”

Deviled asked, “For those who just arrived, what was the message?”

Skip repeated the message, and Deviled started singing:

“I hear tell you’re doin’ well
Good things have come to you
I wish I had your happiness
And you had a do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka-do
They tell me you’re runnin’ free
Your days are never blue
I wish I had your good-luck charm
And you had a do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka-do
Yeah, I see you’re goin’ down the street in your big Cadillac
You got girls in the front, you got girls in the back
Yeah, way in back, you got money in a sack
Both hands on the wheel and your shoulders rared back
Root-doot-doot-doot-doot, do-wah”

Skip sputtered, “But the blocks said Hugh, and then nothing else, not do-wacka-do!”

Jim suggested, “The bomber ran out of blocks?!”

I suggested, “No, it’s the reason why I called my Washington, DC boss and told him not to come.  Hugh McAdoo.  Do-wacka-do.  What’s the difference?  I think the bomber may or may not be bombing this place.  But he may be calling Hugh out into the open to kill him in any way possible.”

Again another voice from behind, this time behind me. “There is a big difference in Do-wacka-do and Hugh McAdoo.  One is me, and I know of no one named Do-Wacka-Do!”

I muttered, “I told you not to come until it was safe.”

Hugh laughed, “I’m not here.  I am coming in on a government jet in about an hour.  Or my doppelganger is.  I flew into the next city to the east and then I caught a small twin-engine plane that delivered me to Stout County.  We already have our snipers in position at the private side of the Tracy airport.  Besides, Mashie, I needed to tell you in person that an old friend of yours has escaped.  He is just crazy enough to be behind this stunt.  I think he figured out that we were feeding him false information.”

”Lester and his wife Anyuta?”

“Just Lester.  When this is over, Anyuta may want to move to Tracy.  I hope you don’t mind.”

I laughed, “I don’t mind.  I hope Pauline doesn’t either.  Besides, Anyuta might feel at home in our large Latvian community on the south side of town.”

Hugh added, “The FBI is looking for Lester.  Not having jurisdiction in the US has never stopped us before, but the FBI have more boots that they can put on the ground.  And note that Lester is a psychologist.  He might convince someone to help him, but he could not make bombs himself.  He needed help.”

Lt. Tagliolini tapped Deviled Yeggs on the shoulder.  “The mayor said that once the Feds were crawling all over this case, you were to be the taskforce leader.  ‘They tell me you’re running free. Your days are never blue. I wish I had your good-luck charm’ and so does Hugh McAdoo, McAdoo, McAdoo, McAdoo.”  Deviled groaned.

The bomb squad commander asked me what was stored in the Hobbit Hole now that it was no longer our home.  When I said, “fertilizer,” several people gasped.

I then added, “And our fueling guy says we are about 300 gallons of diesel short.  We checked for a leak.  There was none.  We thought maybe a big rig backed in after making a delivery to the club and helped himself, although there is a security code.  If the big rig is empty, they can take on 300 gallons.  And before anyone asks, Lester’s last name is not McVeigh.”

Skip spoke up again.  “But the message is puzzling.  Sure, the message is the lyrics of an old song, but the message would be lost if the message blows up.  I’m thinking the doors have something harmless attached so that we would hesitate at the door.  The bulk of the explosives are probably not hooked up.”

The bomb squad commander huffed, “A bunch of probably.”

Deviled Yeggs cleared his throat, “Now that this is a taskforce, I will agree with Skip.  Let’s send in a robot.”

The bomb squad commander growled, “Those aren’t cheap toys!”

But the robot remote control was already directing the robot to the upper door of the Hobbit Hole.  A quick pop of a standard doorknob lock and the robot had the door open.  A couple of flash bangs went off, but nothing more.  The robot continued to the top of the stairs.  The guy on the controls said, “The robot does not do stairs that well.”

A couple of bomb techs went into the top floor and saw that none of the plastic explosives were tied with any detonators.  Detonation cord, however, ran all over the house.  It looked as if one thing was set off, it would all explode by means of det cord.  The bomb techs used a laborious process of descending the stairs.  They descended one step at a time determining that the next step did not have a pressure plate, or there was no IR sensor or a trip wire.  When on the lower floor, they found barrels of diesel fuel and the fertilizer were stored separately, in different bedrooms.  The other chemicals necessary to make the mixture of fertilizer and diesel into a bomb were not in the building.  Sure, there was enough plastic explosive to rip the Hobbit Hole apart and anyone that was in the building, but not an Oklahoma City bombing situation at all.

As the bomb squad opened the door to the tunnel that led to the greenskeeper equipment shed, a series of flash bangs went off.  They anticipated that.  But they also found the body of Lester, killed execution style.

About that time, Hugh McAdoo got a call from the FBI at the airport.  Two Rotten Apple assassins were killed in their attempt to kill the Hugh McAdoo body double.  A third assassin was arrested along with the getaway driver.

Lt. Tagliolini finally contributed some real intelligence to the entire affair.  He had not been sure about his data gathering, but he knew that Empire Apple wanted revenge on Hugh McAdoo and me due to their lost income when the Latvian smugglers were captured.  They never knew when I would go to the Hobbit Hole to get something stored there, but they tapped the phones and knew when Hugh McAdoo might be flying in.  Whenever they got the call, everything was put into action.  There was a backup plan to force the issue of me going into the Hobbit Hole.

Hugh let us know that in moments of weakness, Lester would lament that I got Hugh’s attention without trying, but he was ignored.  The fact that I had handled the assets in the field and Lester was just the psychology guy for when things went wrong?  That had nothing to do with it in Lester’s eyes.  He had stolen my girlfriend, Anyuta, brainwashing her into hating me, but he wanted more, he wanted my relationship with Hugh.  If not, Hugh and I had to go.

But Lester was a loose end that the Rotten Apples could not tolerate.  They took his plan and then killed him.  Lester’s body had been frozen and while Poached and Skip had tripped some motion sensors, the first part of the plan was to deposit Lester’s body in the tunnel using a crew who knew how to temporarily disable the IR sensors, leaving only a couple of trip wires to step over.  And they left Lester outside the door, so they never had to negotiate those booby traps.  While frozen, the dead body would not emit a smell that would tip anyone off.  With the sweating of the two survivors of the assassination attempt in interrogation, the driver admitted that he and one of the dead assassins had positioned Lester’s body.  But he gave up nothing more.  Empire Apple’s explosive expert was safe unless trace evidence could point in his direction.

Skip joked as everyone was cleaning up and the crime scene people were hard at work, “I guess this will go down to the K-9 hero, Sugar, and her handler, saving the day and avoiding a deadly explosion at the Hoity Toity Club.”

The bomb squad commander grunted something about, “Not a Chance.”  But a member of the media thought it was a great idea.  The ruse would lessen the idea that a mad bomber was on the loose in Tracy.

For an epilogue:

Sugar’s picture was all over the television stations that night and the next day, as well as the printed media.  Sugar’s handler was not even mentioned.

Skip, being desperate for a date, accepted Minnie Others’ insistence of bringing Sugar along.  They convinced the maître d that Sugar was a service dog, there to keep Skip calm, but someone in the restaurant recognized Sugar from the media reports.  While the entire restaurant was having their photo taken with Tracy’s latest hero, Minnie reached across the table and held Skip’s hand.  They looked each other in the eyes, and Skip knew that there would be more dates with Minnie Others.  He finally had a girlfriend.

And at the T.R.U.S.T. Medical Center, Scarlet Ibis Yeggs is fine.  They were concerned for a little while, but mother and infant are both okay.

Credits

To get it out of the way, Do-Wacka-Do.  My inspiration of the name, Hugh McAdoo, besides I like rhymes.

I hear tell you’re doin’ well
Good thing have come to you
I wish I had your happiness
And you had a do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka-do

They tell me you’re runnin’ free
Your days are never blue
I wish I had your good-luck charm
And you had a do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka, do-wacka-do
Yeah, I see you’re goin’ down the street in your big Cadillac
You got girls in the front, you got girls in the back
Yeah, way in back, you got money in a sack
Both hands on the wheel and your shoulders rared back
Root-doot-doot-doot-doot, do-wah

  • Roger Miller, Do-Wacko-Do

All the lines in the song are used except for the repeated “Do-Wacka-Do” line (other than when Deviled sings it).

As for Sugar, I noticed that airports are using beagles for security dogs inside airports.  They are good around a mixed crowd, and they have very sensitive noses.  I had a beagle named Sugar.  She was my dog in my pre-teen and early teen years.

As for Wilhelmina “Minnie” Others, I watched old reruns of a show that was filmed in December of 1959 and then broadcast from January to July of 1960, the original Home Run Derby.  Each episode was a one-on-one competition between two home run hitters, the winner receiving $2000 and advancing to the next round (the loser eliminated, but going home with $1000), but in the opening credits they say that you will see such great home run hitters as: “Duke Snyder, Eddie Matthews, Rocky Colavito, Ernie Banks, Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, Willie Mays, and many others.”  I would always turn to whomever was within hearing and say, “I have heard of Minnie Minoso (who was a journeyman player, famous for being a pinch hitter, of all things), but I have never seen Minnie Others and they don’t show a picture of him in the opening credits!!”

And Timothy McVeigh set the bomb in a Ryder rental truck outside the Oklahoma City Federal Building.  The bomb was made mostly of fertilizer and diesel fuel, but a couple extra chemical ingredients are required.  On the day that the bomb exploded, I was working in Richland, Washington.  There was no proof that the bombing was NOT a coordinated attack, so we were all sent home until further notice.  I did not work at the Federal Building, but my boss did and he felt that if he got a free day off, the rest of us should.  The results of the bombing, however, were nothing to joke about, with 168 deaths including many in a child day care and about 800 non-fatal injured.  McVeigh was convinced that the federal government had overstepped their authority at Ruby Ridge and Waco, both involving right-wing extremist groups.

But in this case, the fertilizer and diesel fuel were a ruse to distract people from the assassination attempt.

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