I’m Lieutenant Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. Working for me are my old partners: Detective Sgt. Jim Wednesday and Detective Poached Yeggs, my nephew who is slowly becoming a good detective. And temporarily, Poached and George Evident, who had once been partners on the beat, were reunited. George is a detective with Organized Crime.
Our small team gathered in my office. The state police did not want to touch it. They figured since we had a known perpetrator, we might better identify the team that he worked for and start unravelling the entire operation. Then each jurisdiction that had a handy man murder could follow our leads. As a result, a few of the ex-cons were given bail, having had bail refused. And the one interesting clue that the state police gave us was that each of the ex-cons who were targeted by identity theft were all well-adjusted members of society. Many were too old to get into trouble, a couple were seriously ill, and the rest had a stable work record, loved by coworkers.
As usual, George was late for the meeting. Lt. Tagliolini wanted a debriefing first and he was rarely on time to work. That made George late for our meeting. Jim and Poached usually worked on paperwork until they saw or heard George in the building. The desk sergeant usually buzzed them to give them a warning. On this occasion, they were getting the latest from me on Easter and Jemima. It seems they have become very good friends with Mary Sheltie. After a near meltdown on her first storm, she has been cool as a cucumber ever since. Even Dr. Quinn was impressed with the turn around. Elvira “Ellie” Quinn had seen people react to their first storm as Mary did and then leave the field of meteorology. And Mary, wanting to understand why Easter and Jemima were so different than other college kids, and their relationship was extremely different, Mary had joined their Bible study. They bought her a Bible. Ellie Quinn still uses the Gideon Bible that she stole from the motel. She says that she will send a donation to the Gideons each month, far in excess of the cost of the Bible, but that Bible reminds her of why she needs, and has, a Savior.
We were just laughing about the silly things Easter had reported, including stopping in a parking lot during a hailstorm just to see if their latest redesign of the wind skirts would handle teacup sized hail (three inches in diameter). The next time they do that, they’ll turn off their comms and put hearing protection in their ears. The banging of huge hailstorms on the roof and shields seemed to get amplified over the comms. And the assault on their hearing was for naught. The largest hail they found was tennis ball sized (2 and one quarter inch in diameter), two sizes smaller, no dents, but not the ultimate test either. Can you believe it? They were disappointed! The gas station next door was disappointed because the hail messed up their awning and some of the gas pumps. I have a strange son.
George came in and claimed he had a lead. “I went back to the nosy neighbor. Estelle reminisced about Sally and then she said that Sally had finally bought one of those life insurance policies to cover burial costs.” Jim and Poached disagreed. The kids had no information of that kind. Their mother had not believed in such policies.
George said, “I called around and found a company with a policy in Sally’s name, but the beneficiary was not in the name of any child or any grandchildren. We might have an insurance scam going on. Insure them. Kill them and collect the benefits.”
I disagreed with that idea but it was a lead we could pursue. I thought that most of those policies were either $5,000 or $10,000. They would have to kill a lot of people for it to be worthwhile. Then you have the insurance scam people, or one person who doctors the paperwork to pay off, the hit man, and then the connections with the prison to get the detailed information for the identity theft. It seemed a low return on the investment.
This was getting stranger and stranger.
Jim said, “My visit with a variety of people at the prison paint a sad picture. The budget cuts emptied the prison of a lot of colorful characters. Many of them have found ways of not going back to prison. The space they vacated has been occupied by the cousins and nephews of Red Delicious.”
I asked, “How is that sad news. It points to our rehabilitation system working. Not as much recidivism.”
Jim laughed, “Oh, there is recidivism, just the guys Red Delicious does not like, the stupid guys who either continuously get caught or those not smart enough to evade capture. Red Delicious liked your Dad because he had character. Some of the others that are on the loose were good conversationalists. In other words, Red Delicious is bored and jealous that they got released and he didn’t.”
I shrugged, “That gives us motivation as to why he might help. He is always bribing guards and the warden’s staff to get privileges that other inmates do not get. So, getting the records and then feeding those records to parties unknown is what I’ve thought about since the evidence started coming in. Good work, Jim, but it still does not add up.”
Poached shrugged, “I have bupkis, nada, nil, nothing.”
I asked, “How many days this week have been spent sleeping? Just staying awake should give us something.”
Poached groaned, “My task was to bring in J. B. Fenster. For being as slow as Granddad suggests him to be, he can hide really well. He has not cashed a check, used a debit or credit card, and patrol has not seen him. We have checked several of the well-travelled cameras. No one fitting his description shows up. And before you ask, for the financial traces, I have checked J. B. Fenster and Granddad.”
I suggested, “Then rather than say you have nothing, you could say that Mr. Fenster is smarter than we thought or he is hiding with the help of his handler.”
“Or he left to a neighboring county.” Poached added.
“That, too, Poached,” I said, “And does that not make it sound like you did some work?”
The others snickered.
George turned to Jim, “How long is it going to take Poached to realize that the lieutenant writes the efficiency report that determines his merit raise in pay?”
Poached said, “Wait! That’s unfair. I need that extra money. Diapers are expensive!”
I groaned, “Poached, that sounds awfully lame, when you and Callie both work. You charge the security firm rent in that big warehouse you call a home. You do some moonlighting for the security firm. And you have sold a few pieces of furniture, since your new home used to be a furniture store and warehouse. And the pity me with money card does not change your effectiveness as a detective. Efficiency reports are about efficiency, effectiveness, getting the job done. What does your Aunt Glyce tell me to do when I have not solved something?”
Poached turned red, “She says, ‘Detective, detect!’ ”
“Yeah, and Poached, you will do a deep dive into the insurance companies, or company, that are being used statewide. Who owns them? Who owns the company that owns them?“ I turned to George. “George, you may already have some of this, but what does Empire own and what does his Uncle Red Delicious own?”
At that moment, the door opened with Gisele’s apologies. “You have a guest, gentlemen.”
Jochebed entered the room with practiced grace. She had a large picnic basket.
Jochebed said, “I had a day off and they told me at city hall that my Georges was here.”
George asked, “And what is in the pick-a-nick basket?”
Jochebed laughed, “I have watched your cartoons that you like. We run them at the nursery at times. Mr. Bear and his Oops friend.”
Poached asked, “Is that a boo boo?”
Jochebed said, “I do not know, young man. I am having trouble with English at times.”
Jim grabbed a sandwich and said, “Yeah, when it is convenient.”
Jochebed smiled, “I cannot push your leg, detective. You are too smart for me.”
Poached said, “What is in these sandwiches? They are delicious.”
Jochebed replied, “A delicacy from my country, goat tongue.”
Poached started to cough. Jochebed went to his aid and patted him on the back. “There, there, young man. It must have been something that went down the wrong pipe.”
I suggested, “Jochebed, if you let him know that the meat is really London Broil Roast Beef that you have marinated in some unique spices, I think the coughing will go away.” Poached pulled away from Jochebed, with his face redder than I had seen it in days.
To cover for his being tricked by Jochebed, Poached had to change the subject. “While George and I are doing all the leg work, putting in the long hours, what are you and Jim going to do, Loot?”
For a few seconds you could hear a pin drop.
I smiled and said, “Jim is going back to the prison and find the source of the leak. As for me, I will do what I usually do on these big cases. I am going to step back away from the details and look at the big picture. Killing someone for $5,000 or even $20,000 is nothing when you are paying too many people in between. You got one crew stealing identities for the murderer and the person getting the money. You have to pay for the muscle to have the people pass from this mortal coil. And the mastermind needs his cut. It sounds like something I heard in a recent presentation by George’s boss.”
Jochebed interrupted, “I am the boss of Georges, and I have made no presentation!”
“No, Lt. Tagliolini. That boss. He said something about ‘smurfing.’ You make the money laundering transfers small so that no one notices. Then there might be a bit of round tripping. You send money to the insurance company, then there are possibly a few people who are paid small amounts in return when the victim dies. If they wait long enough, have a good reason to transfer the funds, and shuffle the deck a few times, we might miss it. That’s why I have Georges, I mean George, and you, Detective on thin ice Yeggs, doing the expert tracking. We find the money flow and we can cut off a source of money laundering. This may have nothing to do with clumsy murders and everything to do with laundering money. Empire’s main hustle is online gambling, but he had to show Red Delicious that he could run a criminal organization. This side hustle might be just the ticket. Does that satisfy the detective that needs to finish off his goat tongue sandwich and get back to work?”
Poached ran from the room. Everyone laughed. George asked if he could take Jochebed back to Lily the Pink. She must have taken a Pink bus to the precinct. I nodded my agreement. I had a feeling George would not take long for his assignment, stuff they probably already have. Jim’s assignment might plug a leak, but not solve any of the murders. But the true detective was the poor hard working nephew who was feeling sorry for himself. I just hoped this worked out.
Lt. Tagliolini got a kick out of my idea about money laundering. Not only do they go smurfing and round tripping, but they might make some trade-based money laundering, shuffling money within the insurance industry. And the kicker is that they make money while laundering money. It is small scale money earning, but it might cover the costs. Then Red Delicious will get his friends to return to the prison to keep him company, and who would shed a tear over ex-cons anyway.
I would shed a tear. One that has been caught in the net is my father, and he is needed since Jayne and Ozzie were not big enough to sleep through the night.
In the days that followed, we asked the right questions to the right people. J. B. Fenster was apprehended. He only knew of a low-level lieutenant in the Rotten Apple Gang that he worked with. My Dad visited him in jail whenever the twins allowed him a minute to do so. It tore Dad up that his old protector could not figure out how to not go back to jail.
With that one case solved, at least the murderer identified, the other cases around the state took a different turn. A few had good fortune in identifying the person with the false identity. It was not my job to build a case for all the others in the state. We had two men for ours, J. B. Fenster and his Rotten Apple handler. Empire Apple may skate by and the other cases might not be solved, since no one in the Rotten Apples would talk, but for the time being, the new money laundering scheme was on hold, afraid we were getting too close.
The Pick-a-nick basket reference is to Yogi Bear and the Oops friend must be BooBoo, but you never can tell with Jochebed’s fractured English. Of course, for those who do not know, George and Jochebed are engaged, but the date is not set.
And I believe that “pushing one’s leg” instead of “pulling one’s leg” was an old Jose Jimenez (Bill Dana) line.
And goat tongue is a soft and tasty treat in Argentina, especially when marinated properly. After all, tongue way be considered part of the offal, but unlike the liver, it is really muscle, like the parts we consider good meat. But no, I have eaten duck tongue in China, but never any goat tongue. Then again, I have had goat while in Mexico. Who knows what part of the goat it was?
I’m assuming this is a rerun or you have tons of scheduled posts lined up for the year I hope you’re taking time to grieve. Is your family with you? My prayers are for all of you and your loss.
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This is a follow up to last week’s story. I have tried to stay two weeks ahead of schedule. As a result, I had to modify a post or two, but as of now, I am barely one week ahead of schedule. A lot of staring at the screen and then something distracts me before I type anything. More than the grief, I have been the caregiver for so long that I get distracted by strange noises and then realize she is not there to make the noise. Oddly, the silly short stories keep accumulating in my brain and the Bible studies are difficult – thus no Bible study tomorrow morning and no quiz on Saturday. As for the rest, some has been therapeutic. I may do some ranting about the insensitivity of corporations when you have something like this happen. And I want to start doing some “biographical” things on her. And I am just now, ten days afterwards, trying to think about the obituary. The memorial is not until June 9, so I have more time than most to deal with the grief and the details.
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I find the same to be true. I often escape through the writing process. I love the idea of a biographical series on her. I did that on Paul a few years ago❤️
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I might have done it years ago, but she said I already made too much of a fuss about her.
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