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.
Jim and Poached entered the office for the usual morning briefing. We had a lot of unsolved murders over the past few months, too many for just three of us to handle, especially with no evidence that pointed anywhere, but to say random killings. But all were different, various modus operandi, and we were puzzled.
I barked, “Poached, Captain Hart said he’d fire the next guy who read the newspaper while on duty. Throw that thing in the trash.”
Poached said, “But there is something here that pertains to three of our cases.”
“Okay, read me the news. If Captain Hart bursts into the room, you are the one with the paper in your hand.”
Poached cleared his throat, “Here in the editorials, there is a short letter to the editor. Written from anonymous, it says ‘Why have the “best homicide detectives” in the country not solved the murders of Max Ungerson, Ralph Dench, and Emmalou Richardson? I could go on, but those are the latest three!”
Jim complained, “Max was a stabbing death. Ralph was a shooting, using a 45 caliber weapon. Emmalou was a strangulation. The only thing they have in common is the close proximity of dates and they were each alone in their home at the time. No neighbor saw anyone coming or going. The only pedestrian traffic were people dropping off political fliers, hanging them from the doorknobs of the houses and the mailman. Ralph’s shooting death showed signs of a break in. The other two had no signs of that. They opened the door for the assailant, or the assailant had a key or picked the lock.”
I scratched my head. “Yeah, and the other deaths of late have always been when the victim was alone in the house, no one seen coming or going, and no MO the same. Every firearm victim was shot by a different weapon. So far little to no trace evidence anywhere. What’s the total up to now, Poached?”
Poached said, “We have four strangling victims, four murders by gunshot, and four stabbings. Half showed signs of a break in, half did not. Most strangulations used some kind of cord or cloth, but one was with gloved hands to the throat, nothing the same. The caliber of the weapons is all different. Half the time the knife was found, half the time it wasn’t, but the blades were all different with each stabbing. Half the time using a knife from the home, at least others in a drawer that matched the stab marks. A couple of times, there was evidence of a knockout drug. A couple of times it looked like the victim had been knocked out by a blow to the head first. Nothing exactly the same with any of the victims. Is this somebody trying to connect the dots that aren’t there? Or is it the mastermind behind the thing laughing at us?”
I said, “Let’s go with the latter.”
At that moment, the door burst open and Sophie ran into the room. She was in tears. “Daddy, I need a hug.” I barely stood up by the time she flew into my arms.
“What is it, Sophie?”
“It’s terrible, Daddy. Aunt Tensie almost died.”
“Almost?” I asked, “What happened?”
Choaking back her sobs, Sophie said, “She was telling Blaise what he needed to do next. You know, it’s a Teacher In-service Day. The teachers go to work, and we have the day off. We were both working for Aunt Tensie. I had a big idea, and Aunt Tensie was telling Blaise how my idea might work to solve our latest problem. That’s the way we work together. I have the brain that doesn’t ever get in the box, and Blaise deals with everything inside the box to make it work. I’m not saying that I like my nuisance brother, but we have learned how to work together. But Aunt Tensie said something stupid. It didn’t make sense. We started to laugh, but then she collapsed to the floor. I freaked out. Blaise was cool. He ran into the hallway and came back with the defibrillator, you know, the AED. The cabinet sets off an alarm if you take it out. He ran back and Aunt Tensie did not move when Blaise shook her. He yelled and she did not respond. He was about to tear her blouse when she gasped and said something that I could not hear. I guess I was crying too loud. By then, Missy was there and Greta Grunge, the nurse. The EMTs came in and took Aunt Tensie to the Medical Center. Mommy is with Aunt Tensie. Aunt Tensie is almost a hundred years old. Is she going to die?”
“Let’s hope not, but where is Blaise?”
“Oh, my stupid brother stayed in the lab. He said he could not do anything more for Aunt Tensie at the hospital, but he could have our latest idea finished by the time she got back. That’s stupid, isn’t it?”
“People handle emergency situations and grieving in different ways, Sophie. Is there someone watching him?”
Sophie still had her head buried in my chest as I gave her a bear hug. I felt her nod. “Missy was going to tell the people in the security control room to keep an eye on the lab camera. They were going to put it on the big screen rather than watch it through the roaming camera shots. And Missy was going to enter with each pass through the hallways, doubling her frequency past the lab. He was not going to need to do any welding, so he probably would not get into trouble. I think Aunt Pink was going to check on him too, but she has all the other middle school kids to watch.”
Sophie’s breathing started to get a regular rhythm. The hiccups to hold back her tears were less frequent. I pulled away.
“Sophie, can you focus on a series of murders? We can use your creative mind about now.”
We explained the twelve murders. She wiped the tears from her eyes and said, “I need to see all of the victim’s names on one screen.” She grabbed my laptop and looked at the case files.
About five minutes later, Captain Hart burst into the room. “Glad I caught you three in here. I just read the paper … Great! The Ace Detective is here too. Sophie are you on the case?”
Sophie nodded, “And Po, you missed one. Sally Oliphant. Strangulation.”
Poached protested, “That one is solved. We hardly had any evidence, but it pointed to an ex-con, and he confessed. How does that tie in with twelve unrelated unsolved murders?”
Sophie huffed, “Oh, they all relate alright. And without Sally Oliphant the message would not be complete.” She turned the screen back to me. “Daddy, when you look at the names from a distance, what is the only thing you see clearly?”
“The first letters of each name. Those are capitalized.”
“And what is the message that you see?”
I swallowed hard. The message read, “MAYOR BOAZ YEGGS IS SOFT ON MURDER.”
Sophie said, “The three names in the paper spelled ‘M-U-R-D-E-R.’ I looked at the rest in order of the murders, and I needed to add Sally Oliphant to get the ‘S-O’ for soft. These murders are connected and either someone is trying to taunt my cousin, the mayor, or this has a political theme. Who would want to smear the reputation of the first mayor in a long time that is doing good things for Tracy?”
Poached suggested, “A political rival?”
Jim sputtered, “But the only one hinting at opposing him in three years is Maud the Fraud! And she has never held political office. She is stinking rich, but I doubt if her campaign could ever take traction.”
I asked, “But what do we know about her?”
Poached suggested, “We know the gossip, from which we can get some disconnected facts.”
I groaned, “Okay. Let’s hear it.”
Poached continued, “She grew up in a lower middle class family. Her father had a decent job, but he died when she was about ten. Her mother was an assistant to a city commissioner. The commissioner was incompetent, but savvy with politics. The mother ran the department while her boss played the political game. When her daughter was fifteen, she became a page for the mayor, Hoss Buckley, which was before Beaux Lightly.”
Jim said, “Rumored to be a dirty old man, possible pedophile, etc.”
Poached continued, “Yeah, heavy on rumor, no concrete evidence. He’s buried in an honored mausoleum. But back to the story. Mayor Buckley had pages behind closed doors all the time, but things changed when Maud had her first closed door session with him. Suddenly her mother was the newly appointed commissioner of roads and bridges, and Maud got the deeds signed into her name for some worthless wasteland area. No one noticed the deed transfer until the developer bought the land to build the huge mall three years later. Of course, the mall is defunct now, but suddenly Maud, eighteen-years-old by then, was a millionaire. Then, Beaux Lightly takes the mayor’s office and she waltzes into his office, now in her early twenties. She got more worthless land deeded to her from Beaux Lightly. The new civic center was then built on that property, and she kept rising in the ranks of most influential people in Tracy, but never held an office.”
I mused, “How did she know what properties were worthless, but not really worthless?”
Jim answered, “It seems she was a friend of the Master Planner before she became a page for Hoss Buckley. How they knew each other, we have no evidence or knowledge.”
Sophie giggled, “I bet! And, Po, you know good and well what she was doing behind closed doors with Hoss Buckley! You aren’t that naïve!”
The room got very silent. I heard Jim and Poached swallow. I think Poached tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry and it got stuck. “Soap, we are not allowed to project theories about something we have no evidence of.”
I added, “And little lady, what do you think happened between Hoss Buckley and Maud?”
She sputtered, “And you don’t know, Dad?”
Maybe I knew. Maybe I didn’t know. All I knew at that moment was that my entire world was spiraling out of control. My little girl who once called me Daddy, had just called me Dad and was talking like an experienced woman of the world. Glyce and I had sheltered her, taught her, prayed for her, and now, who is this person sitting next to me?
I tried to swallow, but like Poached, it got stuck. “Sophie, Poached is right. We do not repeat gossip. We deal with facts that we have evidence of.”
“But something in the mayor’s office happened or a little polite discussion behind a closed door would not have turned a little girl into a millionaire.” Sophie said while batting her eyelashes.
“Okay, Sophie, what do you think happened?”
“Sex, Dad! S-E-X! Sex!”
Poached suggested, “Soapy, your Dad is spiraling out of control. He might make a safe landing. He might crash. But his little girl is suddenly not a little girl anymore. Could you tone down the grownup stuff, just a little?”
Sophie asked, “Dad, are you alright?”
“A little shaken. How do you know about such stuff?” I replied.
Sophie said, “Dad, I am sorry. The girls at school talk. I may be the only fourteen-year-old that is not on the pill. That doesn’t mean that they are sexually active, but they might get that way soon. And don’t worry about Em and me. When I started working for Aunt Tensie, he started focusing on gardening with hydroponics with his parents. We see each other at class in Aunt Pink’s office and we play on the mixed water polo team together. I don’t think we’ve held hands since Aunt Tensie showed up. Honest. I told you we were just friends. And I think Emmett wants to be a preacher or something. But girls talk. That’s it. Honest, Dad!”
I asked, “And what happened to the ‘Daddy’?”
She shrugged, “I didn’t think Daddy was the right thing to say when I was trying to be a contributor in the investigation.”
And I added, “And you were pretending to know about something that you had no first hand knowledge of, so to speak?” And she nodded.
I sent Jim and Poached, or is it Po now, in opposite directions. Beaux Lightly would not talk, but Grieves, his valet, might want some easier time in the slammer. Hoss Buckley was pushing up daisies as well as Maud’s mother. But we might just get some information from our ex-con that we had in custody. He was savvy to many of our tricks, but if we threatened to release him on grounds that he made a false confession, he might just let us know who he was afraid of enough. Then he might volunteer a true confession.
And it might just be barking up the wrong tree. I could see how Maud got frustrated. She probably blackmailed both previous mayors, and now Boaz has nothing in which to be blackmailed for. She had to change her tactics. But murder? Maybe it was a serial killer who is fixated on my nephew, the mayor. But why have different methods with each? It confuses the connection that ties the murders together, which means no one looked at them being connected. The message was lost in obscurity, and my father always told me about cracking safes, “Stick to what you know. If you change your M. O., you are most likely going to make a mistake.” And mistakes send you to prison.
This one was going to take a while.
I have no credits with this story, but then, the story is not complete.