Picking Up Aunt Hortense – 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.

Again, for the second weekend in a row, I was not on call if a homicide came up in Tracy.  Actually, Captain Hart volunteered to do the call because he wanted all three of his homicide detectives to spend some quality time with their families, especially after all three of us had worked an extended shift on Christmas Eve.

I was not complaining about that.  I was not complaining out loud about what my wife, Glyce, had me roped into on New Year’s Eve.  She said, “Aunt Hortense is coming, and we have to pick her up at the airport.”  She did not say that the airport was the small private airport in Stout County.

So, here we were in Glyce’s SUV driving to Stout County because Aunt Hortense Tesla wanted to die with all her money, and she found someone going in our general direction and hitched a ride.

And to add to that frustration, she did not tell us that she was coming to visit until she had already arrived at the airport.  She was already waiting, and she did not have any patience, none whatsoever.  And the sun was going down.  AND some bad weather was in the forecast.  The weatherman said to simply stay home, but no, we were going to the next county to our west to pick her up when she could have bought an airline ticket and had a taxi deliver her to the house.

All of this was going through my mind when we hit the patch of ice, okay the fairly long stretch of ice-covered road.

No need to worry.  I have been well trained in such things and I have had too much experience.  Okay, I puckered up because I agreed with the weatherman.  STAY HOME!  No, I did not panic.  I took my foot off the gas.  No brakes.  I slowly drifted to the outside lane.  If the traffic in front behaved themselves, we could make it to a dry patch of road without incident.

When that crossed my mind, I saw a sedan in the other lane spinning like a top, red taillights flashing by as it spun, signifying that the brakes were locked.  At one point, the spinning car got near the truck in our lane.  The trucker hit the brakes and immediately jack-knifed.  I had already moved to the shoulder in case this got ugly.  Now, the shoulder in front of me was filled with a huge trailer, sliding sideways and looking like it might flip onto its side.  When on ice, you really cannot steer, but when we hit little patches of snow, I edged further, now into the ditch.  Of course, this had taken a few minutes to type into my report, but all this happened in a few seconds.  Suddenly, we hit a snow drift and we were stopped.  At least, it was not a windrow of snow from the snowplow.  This drift was softer and cushioned our sudden stop.

Glyce is pregnant.  I immediately turned to her.  She took a few deep breaths and then looked at me and said, “He is kicking like crazy, but I am alright.”

I asked, “Why is it that when the baby kicks, it’s a boy, and when the baby gently moves around, it’s a girl?  I think there is only one baby that we are talking about.”

“Come on, Dev!  This is my fourth child.  I know these things!”  But I was not buying it.

“I know something else.  It used to be that you stayed in your car until help arrived, but if a heavy load trucker who is speeding slams on the brakes on ice, the truck could run over a half dozen cars before it stops, that is at the speed these people drive.  They say to move as far away from the road as it is safe until the traffic is stopped.”

She barely could get her door open in the deep snow of the drift, but she was already moving before I finished talking.

When we heard no more subsequent crashes, we went back to the SUV to crank it up and get warm.  And yes, I checked to make sure the tailpipe was clear and we were not going to be breathing carbon monoxide.  Once warm, we ventured out again to see if we could help people.  Glyce went back up the road from where we had come to see how far back the wrecked vehicles were.  I went forward to see what was in front of us, maybe find a route through if we could get unstuck from the snowdrift.  We met back at the SUV about an hour later.

Glyce was covered in blood.  “Glyce, you look like you had a bad experience.  What did you find?”

Through her tears, she said, “It was a good thing that we went down the shoulder and then into the ditch.  A truck, a few vehicles behind us, went up and over those cars.  We might have been next.  But the truck behind him ran into the back of the first truck.  Something broke off and cut through his leg.  He was bleeding out, but I could not stop the bleeding because the cut leg was pinned, and he could not get out and I could not get in.  He was alert for a short while and asked me to pray for him and then tell his wife and children that he loved them to the end.  I have his name, address and home phone from paperwork in the truck.  And you do not have a drop of blood on you.  Did you sit here while I was roaming around?”

I gave her a hug, “No, dear, I first reached the jack-knifed truck.  It never flipped, but it was leaning against the next snowdrift.  I stepped up and I was about to knock on the window.  The driver and his lady friend were kissing, hugging, and taking their clothes off.  He asked for me to leave.  They were celebrating being alive, but I told him that could wait until they were towed away.  Then there was a car of underaged boys probably going into town for a party.  They had opened the trunk of their car and were drinking beer.  I’ll let the state troopers figure out if they were drinking before the wreck or celebrating after they survived afterwards.  I finally found the spinning car that started all this.  They were pot heads, stoned out of their minds, talking about what a fantastic journey they had just experienced.  I think the Stout County hotels may be filled with survivors and the jail will be above capacity.  I have checked my cellphone and I cannot get a signal.”

“Me either.  Want to do what your trucker friend was doing?  I can’t get any more pregnant.”

At that moment, there was a knock on the window.  It was Jemima.  “Hi!  I hope I didn’t catch you two getting amorous.  Easter and I were just wondering if you needed to be rescued?”

Glyce and I sputtered surprise and questions about how they knew where we were, where the accident was, etc.

Jemima laughed, “As you know already, we are taking this winter session off from classes to storm chase winter storms.  We were not scheduled to start yet, but Dr. Quinn called and told us that the conditions were right for something badly wrong to happen along this route.  Some cars that went through the other direction as the crash occurred called the state troopers.  We got there just as they shut down traffic behind you.  We told them that we knew you might be up here since the relative in Stout County had not seen you yet.  Since the Turtle is designed for all weather use, they let us through, to document as much as we could if nothing else.  The troopers are starting from the back, and I see one coming from the other direction.  We have a winch on the Turtle.  It is designed to pull us out of trouble if we get stuck, but if we anchor the Turtle in Tornado mode, we might be able to winch you out instead.  You can get ready to put it in reverse when I say so, but what you are hearing is Easy shoveling snow underneath the SUV frame, finding a good tow spot.”

When the trooper showed up, he asked what Easter and Jemima were doing there.  They explained that they were storm chasers and that we were Easter’s parents.  The trooper got excited when he saw the blood all over Glyce, but he accepted our explanation and our notes that we took on each vehicle where we checked on people.  Then he stepped back when he heard Jemima yell, “Deploy the anchors, Easy!  Take up the slack in the winch!”

Easter replied, “You got it, Jemima!”

The trooper asked, “Are you the Jemima that does all those storm videos on the local weather reports?”

Jemima shrugged, “I guess so.  I have sold quite a few timelapse videos lately.”

The trooper leaned over and shook her hand.  “I appreciate what you do.  It has helped me understand how to see a storm as it is forming, and that helps me do my job better.”

Jemima’s face flushed, “You’re welcome.”  She then gave Easter two thumbs up and the SUV started to groan.  I put it in gear, and we started to move.

Glyce was glad to have her SUV freed from the snowdrift, but then she remembered.  “Hey! You two!  You were supposed to be keeping an eye on Blaise and Sophie.”

Jemima winked, “When we got the call from Dr. Quinn, we took Easy’s siblings to the Niblick’s house.  Pauline was excited.  She had a reason to stay up late and fix party food.”

The trooper and I both agreed that going forward would be impossible for the SUV, but he thought the Turtle could make it.  Since we were free to move, we scoped out a route through the carnage, going the other way, the wrong way for normal traffic flow, but with the road closed, it did not matter.  There would be no one new coming from that direction.

We helped anyone that we could as we drove through the path that Easter had plowed.  I had no idea he had modified the wind skirts on the Turtle to make them strong enough to plow snow, but the trail from our SUV to the back of the carnage was well plowed.  He just had no salt spreading capabilities.  There were a few slick spots, but our four-wheel drive got us home.

Only problem is that when we first got a signal on the phone, we called Mashie and he said to not go to his house.  Blaise and Sophie might get an education lesson that they were not expecting.  Pauline’s water broke, earlier than expected.  The four of them were on their way to T.R.U.S.T. Medical Center.  With Mashie coaching Pauline with natural childbirth, they had no idea where the children could stay at the hospital.  But if they were in the delivery room, they would be the first to know if the Niblick’s little putter was a boy or girl.  Since Mashie Niblick is the ancient name for a seven iron, they were thinking of a golfing name for the child, but with no luck.  So, they referred to the baby as their little putter (a gender neutral reference) until the baby arrived.

We picked up the pace, especially after we were out of the ice danger zone.

The rest of the report came from Easter (Easy as we have learned that Jemima (Jem) had called him).

Easter filled in Jemima on Aunt Hortense on the way, “Aunt Hortense Tesla is in her nineties.  She made her living redesigning stuff and making it easier to make, easier to maintain, or more efficient.  She worked in cosmetics for a while, but her mechanical aptitude was unmatched by any of the men she worked with.  So, she has over a hundred patents, and I don’t think she has ever ‘retired.’”

Jemima asked, “Why are we going to Stout County Airport to pick her up.  All commercial flights go through Tracy.  And this is New Year’s Eve!  Why not a week ago?”

Easter shrugged, “Aunt Hortense is always working and losing track of time, but if she hears a friend is flying somewhere, she will ask if she can tag along and have her dropped here or there.  That way, she doesn’t have to buy a ticket, although she may have a dozen patents on things that are on the commercial aircraft.”

Easter didn’t think Jemima really believed the whole thing about so many patents.

Driving the Turtle in snowplow mode was slower than normal, but they still held out hope that they might be home before midnight, but it was doubtful.  Aunt Hortense was irritated when Easter came into the airport to get her bags, but then Easter explained why they were late.  Aunt Hortense grumbled but when she saw the Turtle her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, so much vehicle with so many gadgets, gadgets that needed the Hortense touch.

On the way home, Hortense sat in the back where the professors usually sat.  She checked out the periscopes and other gadgets.  She checked the weather maps on the computers.

Then she asked, “Sweetie, do you take time-lapsed videos of storms forming?”

Jemima nodded, “Yes, ma’am.”

Hortense laughed, “Forget the ma’am, dear.  Call me Tensie.  I have learned so much watching your videos.  There is one thing that I cannot improve on, and that is the way God makes a storm, not that anyone would want to improve a storm.”

When Jemima heard “Tensie,” she gasped.  There were a half dozen things in her house that had a label, “Design by Tensie,” printed somewhere.

Easter said, “I told you.  Over a hundred patents and after she sells the idea, she insists they put her logo on it somewhere.”  And Easter thought that by the time they left on a storm chasing expedition with one of the professors, something on the Turtle would be a Tensie prototype.

And when Hortense found out that Easter had redesigned the skirts to work like a snowplow, he was allowed to call her Tensie also, but it had to be Aunt Tensie.  Jemima laughed the rest of the way home.

Jemima’s car was parked at our home, and they got very concerned when the lights were out, and the SUV was not in the garage.  They called on the cellphone.

Glyce answered, “Come down to the medical center.  Bring Aunt Hortense if she feels up to it.  We are ringing in the new year with Mashie, Pauline, and Buffy Niblick.  They might pronounce her name ‘Baffy’ after a Baffing Spoon, what you might call a 4 or 5 wood (or metal) these days or maybe a recovery wood or metal.  Sophie and Blaise are here with us.  They got a little more of a biology lesson than I would have wanted, but we are all fine, including Buffy.  And if you are wondering, Buffy wins the prize as the first baby born this year, just a few seconds past midnight, at least here in Tracy.”

And we all wondered, since Aunt Hortense was in her nineties, if she was the one who changed the names of the golf clubs to numbers.  Anything seemed possible with her.

Credits

This story was inspired by one of the officers who helped my family settle into our apartment in Germany.  He was a company commander of a different company in our battalion.  They had a VW bus, their hippie van, though they were far from being hippies.  My wife occasionally got a ride before we finally went to Bremerhaven to pick up our car from the shipyard.

I think it was New Year’s Eve in 1978 when the captain and his wife went to the Baden Baden casino to ring in the New Year, 1979.  They had a blast, wearing formal attire, a casino requirement for that night.  On the drive home, about one in the morning, they hit a patch of ice on the autobahn and the VW bus started to roll over a couple of times.  They were wearing seatbelts and they survived with only minor injuries, but there was not much left of the hippie van.  At least that is what I remember of the incident.

I simply put Deviled and Glyce into that situation and went from there knowing what they did for a living.

One Comment

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  1. What an interesting story! I enjoyed reading! Happy New Year! 🥳

    Liked by 1 person

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