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.
Note that in looking for Shingo Pear, who Pink Lady assured me was safe in Tracy, the case was Tuesday Wednesday’s case, since Shingo had disappeared from Stout County.
Jim had invited me over for some fun on Sunday afternoon. Jim has one of those streaming sticks, and we thought it would be “fun” to watch a “One Day” Cricket match. It was not much “fun,” and we did not see the entire thing, but we learned a lot. Once we had the idea of the game, I told him what was brewing in my head after meeting with Pink Lady. So, Jim and his wife, Tuesday, already had worked out how they would handle a few interviews. The key was to work a question into a long, friendly conversation: Tuesday with Mr. Pear and Jim with Ambrosia and Honeycrisp Apple. The question? “But why go to horticulture school when the orchards of Stout County and in Tracy are agronomic in scale?”
We think we know the answer. They each probably wanted to take some small scale experimental crops to expand the varieties of fruits produced by the orchards, but maybe blend in some farmer market size vegetable gardens, all the time preventing one crop from starving another. That might have been the focus of this particular horticulture school. And due to that interest, it might explain how the two people went to the same school for six months.
Our hopes were to have Tuesday learn where or in what region the school was located. And we hoped Jim could figure out which sister, probably with a slip of the tongue by the other sister. If Red Delicious set up the adoption by a third party with falsified credentials, he would rather die than let us know, but that might mean that the sister who was not Shingo’s mother might not know that going to the school was a big secret.
Poached was late getting to work. Captain Hart had to chew a certain body part on Poached’s back side for a while. You know, read him the riot act and threaten to send him back to patrol. Poached knew that no excuse would be accepted, but when he finally got to my office where Jim and I were waiting for him, he whined about how it was his turn to do the night feeding and their baby, Scarlett Ibis, wanted none of Poached feeding her or the properly warmed mother’s milk Callie had left in the refrigerator. Captain Hart “understood”, but he could not make an exception when others had to take reduced hours due to missing work time for similar reasons. But on the other hand, Poached did computer work from home and he had a ton of compensation time that he could draw from. With the expenses of a new baby, Poached and Callie did not need either of their incomes cut, not even with them renting space in the warehouse they had turned into their home.
I tossed him some paperwork, “Okay, Daddy, now that you are finally here to start work, I have a monster assignment for you.”
Poached looked at the paperwork without reading it. He thin saw the grin on the faces of Jim and me. “What makes me think that I have just been had?”
Jim laughed, “Poached, would we do that to you? You know, the new father that has not had any sleep in a couple of days? We would never be that cruel. But we know you to be the best finder of needles in haystacks and this one is about 25-30 years old.”
Poached groaned, “Oh, no. Just give me the assignment without the preamble, please.”
I smiled, “It’s simple. Go back through the records to the approximate time when Shingo Pear was conceived, and find the Horticulture school that Mr. Pear and one of the sisters who run The Orchard attended.”
Poached groaned and he flopped into a chair, staring at the ceiling, “Those things can pop up as an additional class connected to any number of community colleges. There has to be at least a thousand community colleges and even more universities. Who knows how many parttime side businesses would teach something like that through one of those community colleges.”
I replied, “At last count, 1167 community colleges. Start there and limit the search to a 2-3 state radius at first. Jim and Tuesday are doing interviews that might narrow down that search. You know, friendly conversations that might reveal the state. I doubt if anyone would give us more than that.”
“Okay, I get the wild goose chase. Jim and Tuesday get to sit in an orchardist’s office sipping tea. What are you doing, Uncle Deviled, sitting at your desk and thinking?”
I smiled, “I am going where Captain Hart has wanted to send me on numerous occasions. I am going to prison.”
Poached snarled, “I’ll call the warden and suggest he lose the key so you can stay a while.”
I cleared my throat. “Poached, that was unkind.”
“Like giving me this needle in a haystack was the nicest thing you’ve done for me?!”
Jim was still laughing, “All in a day’s work, detective.”
We all went our different directions.
I interviewed Red Delicious first. As usual, he was antagonistic. He refused to answer any of my questions. He refused to bite when I gave my ‘theory,’ a theory I knew was wrong, or even the theory I thought was right. He finally ended the conversation with a short, menacing statement, “You call yourself a Christian, but you do not value a solemn oath. You are good at your job, detective, you will solve this puzzle of yours, but you will not learn what you want to know from me. Understand?” I nodded and then signaled for the guard to take him back to his cell.
Once he was clearly into his cell block, his son, Big Red MacIntosh, was escorted into the interview room.
After some pleasantries about his prison ministry, I asked, “You may have been too young. Pink Lady was in high school at the time. You are a little older. But do you remember an aunt who went away for at least ten months or so to learn about the apple growing business?”
Big Red chuckled, “Yes, I think I do. My Dad got upset with her at one point and he had to have a few private meetings.”
I prodded, “So, you know which aunt it was?”
Big Red waved his hands, as much as he could since he was shackled. “I am sure that my father will be angry with me, but of the two that are presently running The Orchard, one is the studious one and the other may be great with sales and entertaining people who are interested in buying, but she would not know the difference in asparagus and aspirin … in a Golden Russet Apple and a Russet Potato. You know the answer, Deviled. Do you need me to spell it out for you?”
I nodded, “So, the portrayal of the virgin, maiden aunt is not quite true?”
Big Red smiled, “I cannot confirm or deny, but if you had a friend who made one indiscretion in a lifetime of living an upright life, would you hold it against them?”
I had one last question. “Where was the horticulture school?”
Big Red looked at the doorway. “I cannot tell you, but she has many photos of the mountains west of here in a scrapbook. She looks through the book often, with tears in her eyes.”
I thanked him for evading my questions adroitly. On the way back to the precinct, I called Poached. Honest, it is all hands free, so I can focus on my driving. “Poached, concentrate on the mountain area west of Tracy.” Poached replied with some snarky comment about how the thousand places was now only a few hundred. I called Jim next. He said, “Ambrosia slipped once, but once was enough. She said something about how she was considered the trollop of the family, but isn’t one time worthy of the title? Honeycrisp has got to be the mother.” I asked what Tuesday had found. Jim said, “She got Mr. Pear into a reminiscent mood at one point, and he mentioned ‘Heart’s Field’. She asked if he was talking about the airport in Atlanta, but then he got snippy. He spelled it carefully, but then he would not say anything about who, where, or what ‘Heart’s Field’ was. After Poached showed such a poor attitude this morning, I thought I would wait until I got back to the office to give him a narrower search.”
When we got back to the office, about an hour after normal quitting time, since I got hung up in traffic, Poached was the first to speak. “Heart’s Field” is a fertile valley in the mountains west of here, the next state over. About thirty years ago, they had an experimental farm there, doing a variety of experiments. They were linked to two different community colleges at one time or another, but when they were linked to the State university in the next valley over, they had two attendees at the same time learning horticultural techniques, Mr. Pear and Honeycrisp Apple. Mr. Pear left after the course was over in six months, but Honeycrisp stayed another seven months. According to the records, she worked on experiments connected with the course. I have found no one yet to confirm that she might have been pregnant at the time.”
Jim and I looked at each other. I said, “Don’t you just love these smart aleck kids who give all our hard-fought information in their little spiel. It’s like we didn’t contribute anything.
Poached replied, “Ha! Ha! Do we bring her in now or tomorrow?”
I grabbed my hat and coat. “She is no criminal and Shingo is safe. Tomorrow, Jim, Tuesday and I will go to visit both her and Shingo. Why bring her here? She made a mistake a long time ago. And I have a feeling that she is simply trying to protect her son. Let’s make the conversation a pleasant one.”
The next morning, the three of us went to The Orchard. Honeycrisp was not happy to see us, but she led us to her private office. I scanned the book shelves and saw a scrapbook that needed a new spine. It had been taken from the shelves many times over the last thirty years, give or take a couple.
Tuesday took the lead in the conversation, talking about the beauty of the orchards and how it would be so nice to live in this place with miles of trees in every direction. She asked questions about the orchard, and then she asked if it was possible to blend a vegetable garden with the orchard without affecting the yield of either crop.
Honeycrisp furrowed her brow. “And now we get to the part regarding your reason for being here.”
Having had more interviews with Honeycrisp than the other two combined, I took over. “Honeycrisp, we have proof that you an Mr. Pear were an item when you both attended the Heart’s Field Experimental Farm Horticulture school, specifically to learn how to have a blended garden with the orchard. You weren’t showing when the course was completed, so your classmates thought nothing of talking about you two. No one at the farm will confirm you had your baby during your six months of additional work there. Red Delicious only said that he swore a solemn oath. I am sure that was to have the child taken to foster or adoptive parents, with them raising him as their own. I am sure that was hard on you.”
Honeycrisp nodded, “I made Red Delicious very angry. Shingo’s father was allowed to be part of his life with clandestine visits, but I was not allowed. I decided to volunteer with the Doyle County community athletic program. Shingo was adopted by a Korean family in Doyle County. The adoptive father was a pastor and Shingo was raised in a Presbyterian church. And when he became old enough, I coached his T-ball team, his little league team, his soccer teams from 5 – 6 years old until he joined the high school team. It was his grades and his soccer skills that got him a full scholarship to Duke. You know how children develop from their parents knowing everything to their teacher’s knowing everything to their friends being the knowledgeable ones. I became a teacher and a friend. He told me when he visited one summer while in college that he had figured out that I was his real mother, but he had never told his parents. He thought that knowledge might cut off our visits.”
Tuesday asked, “Can we see and speak with Shingo?”
Honeycrisp looked at her in horror. “No! Cigar Store Indian killed his half-brothers in revenge for them killing Gala Apple. Shingo had nothing to do with it. Now this idiot that is in charge of the Rotten Apples wants to kill Shingo. It’s not for revenge, but since I have a deed in my name only for The Orchard and Shingo’s father has already groomed him to take over the orchards in Stout County, that means Shingo is the heir to both orchards. Empire wants the orchards in Tracy back in his name. He thinks killing Shingo will make him look like a tough, hard-nosed crime boss, but he is just a punk with an Ivy League education. Sergeant Yeggs, I know about your cold case that you have been investigating. Baldwyn handed Empire a gun and he was such an idiot, he missed at close range. Baldwyn then shot Dick Biggers, but don’t move him to a new prison. Let him go back into general population. If he is not beaten by Pink’s father, there are others. But as for Shingo, I will not tell you where he is.”
I asked, “Should I ask for a key to the bunker where the Rotten Apples hid their explosives? Or should I break the door down?”
Honeycrisp only burst into tears. “Please, if you figured out everything, Empire will eventually. Sergeant, and you two also, protect my son.”
We had a brief visit with Shingo. A couple of the old Red Delicious goons showed up while we were there. One said, “We heard from Red Delicious. We have clipped Empire’s wings on this caper. If any harm comes to Shingo Pear, Empire is a dead man. You understand, detectives?” We nodded. Then he added, “So now the Ivy League punk will have to prove in some other way that he’s tough enough to run the Rotten Apple Gang.” Then the goon laughed, “But I doubt he succeeds.”
Honeycrisp walked over to the goon, whom she had fed from her garden for the past three decades. She gave him a big hug and they whispered a few kind words to each other. We did not listen in. After all, they were family.
At one time, I had an international sports channel on our cable group of channels. I fell in love with rugby. I had known about Australian Rules Football, loving it, but I could not get full games here until we had that channel. And I watched enough cricket to understand the sport, but with one team scoring as much as they can in the morning, just to have the other team try to pass that mark in the afternoon? It can easily be quite boring unless they get close when the shadows become long. Until then, it might rank with paint drying … unless you enjoy the artistry of good bowling, catching a ball for an out without a glove, or a batsman approaching a century, one hundred points scored while at bat. I was probably one of the only people in the area to view that channel, so they dropped it.
Horticulture usually designates a garden sized plant growing operation. Agriculture designates large business operations. But there are some horticultural aspects where a vegetable and fruit garden can be blended with an agricultural operation. They can be mutually beneficial while not starving one crop or the other, if handled properly. Otherwise, horticulture and agriculture do not mix well.
According to the latest information, there are 1167 community colleges in the USA.
The Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, GA, USA is one of the busiest in the world. A joke has circulated that when you die, you will receive a connecting flight in Atlanta whether going to heaven or hell. No one has returned to confirm or deny the joke. But as for the name of the airport, it is named for two former mayors of Atlanta.
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