By David Larson
“Damn, I’m getting tired of murder.”
“Did you say something, Clarence? Do you want another cup of coffee” Your breakfast should be out next.”
“I’m sorry Helen, I was talking to myself. I read this editorial in the paper where the writer thinks all the deaths in the last month are murder. Every day, I read about another, and I don’t even ask why anymore.”
“How many deaths have there been”?
“This writer thinks all 24 are murder although the police called some an accident or suicide.”
A man at the table across the aisle spoke up, “Buddy, can I borrow that paper. I’m curious as to what he’s saying.”
As the man got up to take the paper, Clarence spotted a gun under the man’s sport coat.
Quietly, Clarence spoke to Helen, “Would you go in the back and call the police? This guy has a gun.”
“Did I hear your name is Clarence? I have a gun as I am the police.”
“Sorry, officer, after reading this story, I got a little nervous. Can I buy you breakfast for making a mistake?”
“Technically, I’m a detective. And I’m not able to accept your offer of a meal.”
“Sorry again, detective, how about this, you can say you forgot your wallet today, so I pay for your breakfast. I’ll forget my wallet tomorrow, and you can pay for mine then. That assumes you will be here tomorrow also.”
Helen brought Clarence’s breakfast, “He’ll be here. Tim’s wife won’t let him eat bacon and greasy potatoes, so he eats here. What your wife doesn’t know doesn’t hurt you. Right, Tim”?
“Detective Tim, why don’t you come and join me. If it isn’t against your rules, I’d like to hear your opinion on this editorial.”
“May I ask your name, sir”?
“Oh sure, I’m Clarence Solander. Pleased to meet you, Tim.”
“Listen, my name is Tim Caffie. I’ll let you buy breakfast today, and I’ll pay for yours tomorrow. Just don’t go crazy and order steak and lobster. It will be nice to have someone to talk to that’s not Helen. I think she tells my wife what I eat here.”
The detective read the editorial, shaking his head in disagreement a couple of times.
“Helen, bring the detective’s breakfast to this table, and I think he needs a cup of coffee.”
“Helen, no coffee. Clarence, my wife, limits me to one cup a day before I leave home. As much as I liked another cup, my wife seems to smell it on me if I drink more. So I’m trying to be good.”
“While we wait for your food, would you mind if I ask you some questions about this editorial”?
“I really shouldn’t say anything. I’m not in homicide; I work on a different squad. Plus, I’m not particularly eager to talk about the job. You probably feel the same way at home. My wife asks all kinds of stupid questions about what she hears on the talk shows.”
“I don’t have to worry about that; I got divorced a couple of years ago. And you’re right; I got tired of, Clarence, what’s this? Clarence, whose perfume is on you”?
“If you don’t mind me asking, what do you for a living”?
“I don’t mind you asking; I am a secret shopper. I work alone, I get hired by different companies. Some days I would have to sniff dozens of perfumes; some get on me. So my wife was convinced I had been cheating on her. I’m paid by manufacturers to go into stores to make sure their products are correctly displayed, and coupons are available. Do employees push the product or someone else’s.
For example, yesterday, I went into fifteen different stores, ensuring they displayed this new razor called the She-zor. You can’t imagine how many other shavers are available. The She-zor must have 50 or 60 blades. Yet another pink razor, but with a flower at the end of the handle to make it different. And so you don’t lose grip in the tub. It squirts lotion and shaving cream and most likely an antiseptic if you get a cut.”
“I hope your kidding about some of that. Maybe the next one will give a shave without one having to touch the razor.”
Clarence reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a piece of paper. “Tim, you said you were married; here’s a coupon for $1 off the She-zor. Maybe your wife would want one. If this is considered a bribe, forget I said anything.”
“Give me the coupon. If anyone thinks this is a bribe, I’ll say I got it in the drug store. Clarence, you seem like an okay guy, go ahead and ask me any questions about the editorial. But remember, I don’t work homicide.”
“I don’t want to cause you any trouble, so forget I even asked.”
“You’re not a reporter; there’s no notepad or recording devise. Ask away.”
“Okay, thanks. This writer says he believes something is fishy about the woman, electrocuted in her hot tub. That must be an accident.”
“The writer is correct. I heard the boys in the office are concerned about a couple of things that don’t make sense. It may indeed be an accident, but there are questions. You read the story, what do your investigatory skills tell you”.
“Well, the woman had a boom box on the edge of the hot tub. She had it plugged into an outlet. And what’s with a bird floating in the tub. Why a boom box. Most people have music on their phones and wear those tiny earbuds. They don’t have a wire connecting them to a phone.
But, the story said the woman had been drinking. She had finished off a bottle of wine. She could have passed out and somehow pulled the radio into the tub. That still doesn’t explain the crispy bird in the tub.”
“You could be a detective. The working theory doesn’t explain the boom box, but it was there. The woman was drunk. The thought is a bird flew to the hot tub, landed on the radio, knocking it into the tub and failing in with it. This death will be written up as an accident by misadventure.”
“Tim, I enjoyed talking with you. Helen, give me his check. We can talk again tomorrow if you stop in. I need to visit liquor stores today. A new wine called Muddy Guppy is offering a rebate. I’m to make sure the forms are displayed.”
“Clarence, I enjoyed talking with you also. My wife drinks wine and likes to send off for rebates. If you catch my drift.”
Clarence was in the booth, talking to Helen when Tim arrived. “Clarence, I got one of those razors; what a piece of crap. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
“I don’t make them, and they aren’t for men. I only check to be sure the displays are in the stores. Hey, morning Tim. Helen, bring the pot of coffee and a cup for the detective.”
“No coffee. Remember, my wife has me on one cup a day, and I had mine before I left home.”
“Sorry, I forgot. Helen, I need a refill when you are by here again.”
Helen returned with the coffee, “Do you two want your regular breakfast? Tim, I can ask the cook to hold the grease on yours.”
“You are a funny lady. Ask if he’ll use double butter on the potatoes.”
“Tim, do detectives have the same guidelines for physical fitness as beat cops? I’d hate for you to flunk a physical because your lard level is high.”
“Helen, have you been talking to my wife also? I passed my last physical, so don’t worry about me.”
Clarence spoke, “I have a question about last night’s shooting. Is it okay to ask”?
“I assume you mean the drive-by where a woman took five bullets.”
“Yes, surely no one will say there this is anything but a gang-related murder.”
“I was in the precinct late last night and heard some scuttle. It may be an accidental murder.”
“How does someone blast away with a machine gun, and it’s called accidental.”
“First, the woman’s name is similar to the name of a drug lord’s girlfriend. The car used in the drive-by had been stolen two blocks away from the site of the murder. It was found two blocks away in the opposite direction. The woman lived in the middle of those four blocks. The boys in homicide are calling it a case of mistaken identity. What do you think”?
“Mistaken identity or not, it’s still murder. Was the woman shot in the middle of gang turf”?
“Not even close. Give me your theory.”
Clarence put some jelly on a piece of toast, stalling while he thought. “If it weren’t done in an area controlled by gangs, I’d look at the husband. Have the couple been having marital problems? Does the husband have any guns? Does the wife have a life insurance policy”?
“Those questions have already been asked. Clarence, I enjoy breakfast with you. Can we meet again tomorrow? I need to go; what kind of miracle product are you checking on today”?
“I’m not looking forward to today; after the wine, I am checking on a natural fertilizer that is said not to stink. Even if it doesn’t stink, the other bags near it will. I may have to stand in the shower for an hour to wash the stink off. I hope you’ll be back tomorrow.”
Tim was already eating when Clarence arrived; he waved for attention.
“Clarence, over here. Someone was already sitting at our regular table.”
“This is fine, much closer to the kitchen and the coffee; I was up late last night working on last week’s reports.”
“Would you mind if I ask a favor of you? We haven’t known each other long, but my wife won’t let this go.”
“Ask away; I’ve peppered you with questions; I can surely help you out.”
“Thanks, I didn’t want to do this. I’ve been telling my wife about your job. She wants you to introduce her to the people you work for. She thinks she’d be a good secret shopper also.”
“Wow, I work for myself and am not set up to have a partner or employee. I can check with some of the other shoppers I run into and ask for a couple of phone numbers for her. But, most companies don’t hire women.”
“That doesn’t seem legal. What’s wrong with having women as secret shoppers? Women love to shop.”
“That’s just it; they love to shop too much.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“Tim, let me explain if you need a new pair of socks. What do you do”?
“I go to the store, find the socks, buy them, and leave. A woman can do that.”
“That’s right, you are in the store ten, maybe fifteen minutes.”
“How’s that different than a woman buying socks”?
“A woman goes to the store to buy her husband a new pair. She goes in, stops at the jewelry counter, oohs, and ahs over a couple of earings. Then she wanders over to lingerie before seeing the dresses on sale. Now she goes to the men’s department. She spots a shirt her husband might like before grabbing a pair of socks.
She starts for the checkout counter, but a woman with a baby in a stroller is there. She has to do a few coochie goos. Now she goes by the perfume counter and gets a spritz of some new fragrance. She studies at the socks, thinking, why my husband wants this color. She goes back to the men’s department thinking; instead, she grabs argyle socks. They’ll look snappy with his blue slacks. Now she goes to the checkout counter and buys a pair of socks.
You and I are in and out in ten minutes while she’s taken 45 minutes to an hour. My employers pay me for the number of reports I turn in. I can make 12 to 15 stops a day; women may make half that. Does that describe your wife”?
“Absolutely. I won’t go to the grocery with her anymore for that reason. She has to check everything. Would you believe she once drove twenty miles to save .02 on gas? She used a gallon of gas to save .30 on a fifteen-gallon fillup.”
“I’ll find you a couple of business cards. Let her find out on her own what the business is like.”
“Thanks. Anything interesting in the morning paper? What does it say about the woman found dead in her apartment”?
“It says she was found dead with her head in the gas oven. The EMTs found sleeping pills, so the thought is she took those so she would be asleep when the gas took effect.”
“Alright, Clarence, you’re the coroner; how would you write up the report”?
“It seems to be a suicide. Is there something I’m missing”?
“Remember, I’m not involved in these things, but I heard the EMTs talking. The woman is a nurse who recently divorced from her husband, a doctor. There was a bottle of sleeping pills in the apartment, but not the same brand her hospital uses. Take a guess.”
“Okay, she bought them at the local drug store”?
“No, the pill found with her is only used at her ex’s hospital.”
“I guess you guys will be questioning Docter ex.”
“That’s right. Oh, I just remembered. Do you remember the drive-by shooting from the other day? Homicide is arresting the husband. He claimed he was with a prostitute all night, someone we couldn’t find. What the guys did find was the gun, buried in the backyard.”
“Amazing, the accidental shooting wasn’t an accident after all. Thank you. We could start a podcast, ‘Breakfast with a Detective.’ There must be other people who like to listen to crime stories.”
“You better believe it. I need to shove off, but I enjoy hearing about your assignments. Quickly, what kind of product are you checking today”?
“I have to go to grocery stores today to ensure the endcaps are full of this new cereal. It sounds disgusting, but I’m not the target audience. How would you like marshmallow-covered corn fritters with chocolate in the middle? There are a bunch of coupons that also need to be on display.”
“One last question and I need to run, what’s an endcap”?
“When you’re walking in the central aisle of the grocery, the endcap is the display of products before you turn down an aisle with multiple products. The endcap costs big bucks, so one product only is displayed. Hopefully, you’ll buy that item before looking at anything else.”
“Alright, just one more question. You said the endcap costs big bucks; for a display, why.”
“Remember, only one product is on the endcap. You don’t have a dozen choices as you find in a normal aisle. Stores charge manufacturers to display their products and charge big time for an endcap.”
“Who knew. I’ll be back tomorrow if you want to talk again.”
Clarence was finishing his breakfast when Tim arrived and promptly grabbed the newspaper.
“Clarence, what does the paper say about yesterday’s murder? It was not accidental.”
“Some guy who had a pressure washing business was found in a backyard with water blasting out his mouth. It seems somebody jammed the hose into him, Chicago style, and turned it on full blast. The story said one of his kidneys ended up in his mouth. That’s a bit rough for a morning paper. You folks haven’t said if there is a suspect.”
“Our people aren’t going to tell you right from the start if there is a suspect. Obviously, this is not a suicide or an accident. A detective will investigate his background and customers, then suspects will emerge.”
“Do you have any children? I have a bunch of coupons for the new cereal. Kids would eat it by the handful; putting it into milk makes it seem even more disgusting. But with kids, the grosser, the better.”
“My son is in college. My guess is cold pizza is his regular breakfast. It was mine for years. Were you able to find any phone numbers yesterday”?
“What’s on your plate today, and don’t say bacon and eggs. You’ve wiped the plate clean.”
“Hardware stores should have cardboard displays of a busty supermodel, who is promoting a new safety vest. Of course, she’s not wearing a top under the vest. She almost spills out the side, showing what they call sideboob. Kids have been stealing the display. Your son might have one in his dorm room by now. I need to tell the vest company which stores need a replacement.”
“I’d like one for the breakroom at the precinct. But the females would be upset if it was there. I guess the men’s locker room would be a better place for one. I’ll have some uniform guys spot-check the stores to catch a kid stealing one. The display can then be confiscated as evidence and lost in the system. Only to magically reappear where men can appreciate it the most.”
“Tim, you’ve never told me what kind of things you work on every day. Since I got divorced, the closest thing I’ll have to sex is fondling the cardboard cutout. I’m too old for one of those websites where you swipe for a hookup. Are you with the vice squad? I’m a bit embarrassed to ask, but can you recommend any very discrete women who might want to share a bottle of Muddy Guppy wine”?
Tim was trying to shake his head no with no luck. Helen put her hand on Clarence’s shoulder.
“Mr. Solander, I don’t stink of grease in the evenings. But I do rub a little bacon on my neck after a shower. It seems to draw men to me. I’m off at three. I may look frumpy, but I’m frisky.”
“I’m sorry you heard me. My situation is a bit embarrassing and now even more so. I’ll keep you in mind.”
“Clarence, I’m sorry, I tried to warn you she was standing there. And as for an introduction, I work in organized crime. I rarely interact with the vice squad. Plus, I’d hate to find out my guys picked you up in a raid.”
“Forget I said anything. I’m making myself appear bad in your eyes.”
“Hey, no big deal. Occasionally escorts come through the office, and I wonder if I could be tempted. I’ve also noticed you checking out Helen’s caboose. I bet she’s fit from walking all day.”
“Please forget I even asked. I’ll let you return to taking down some criminal kingpin. Will you be here tomorrow”?
“I’ll be here.”
Helen had been discreetly listening and came up to Clarence when Tim left. “When I turn around to walk away, go ahead give my booty a boop. I’ll slap you and give you my number at the same time.”
Clarence did as told.
Helen gave Clarence a wink when bringing his breakfast. She lightly touched his hand, squeezing it. “You know you could have stayed the night. What time did you leave anyway”?
“I guess it was around one. I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to wake you.”
They watched as Tim staggered in, looking pale and sweaty.
He said he was fine, ordering breakfast.
Unsure of his friend, “Tim, are you okay? Are you sick? Should I call 911”?
“No, I need a little food. All I’ve had is a cup of coffee, and I haven’t even finished that. My wife forgot to set the automatic coffee maker last night, so we’ve been rushing around this morning.” Tim stopped, gasping for air.
“Are you choking? Stand up so I can do the Heimlich maneuver.”
Tim tried to stand but fell to the floor. Helen screamed for help. “Is there a doctor or nurse here this morning”?
Two men wearing EMT uniforms came over, checking for Tim’s pulse. The man with Oscar on his name tag spoke first, “This man is dead. I’ll call for the police and an ambulance. What was he eating”?
Helen spoke up, “Nothing yet; he just arrived, looking pale and sweaty. He hadn’t even ordered yet. Clarence offered to call 911, but Tim shook his head no.”
The EMT with Byron on his name tag asked, “You folks seem to be friends with this man. What can you tell me about him.”
“His name is Tim Caffee. He’s a detective. We’ve been eating breakfast together for about a week. A few days ago, he said he passed his most recent physical. We had been joking about his eating greasy food.”
Byron looked at his partner, “Oscar, if this guy is a cop, we need a detective here. There have been enough suspicious deaths this month. We don’t want another one.”
Clarence had to stick around while a detective named Drake got their statements. “Tell me how you know each and anything else that might be of interest.”
Both Helen and Clarence told what they knew and how they came to be eating breakfast together.
“I’m not familiar with detective Caffee. You seem to be friends. Does he have a family”?
“He’s told me he’s married and has a son in college. I’ve never met either; we just eat together every morning.”
Detective Drake called his supervisor to send someone to the Caffee residence to talk to Mrs. Caffee.
Drake asked, “Has he ever talked about his job or cases he’s working”?
“He wouldn’t talk about his job. We did discuss all the murders that have been happening. We both were tired of murder.”
“Wait here a little longer, please.” Drake talked with the uniformed cops and the EMTs before Tim’s body was taken away. About an hour later, he got a call.
“What can you tell me about his wife. Has she had a serious illness recently”?
Clarence glanced at Helen, unsure what to say, finally, “I never heard her name or where she worked. Helen, I think he’s eaten her longer than I have. Can you tell the detective anything more”? She shook her head no.
Drake spoke to the pair, “We just found Mrs. Caffee, dead on the kitchen floor. The EMTs here think the detective had a heart attack. The EMTs at his house think his wife also did. Can I have your contact information in case we need anything else”?
Both quickly gave detective Drake their names and numbers. Helen continued to sit with Clarence.
“Clarence, the last thing he did was to give you the incentive to call me. I hope that wasn’t what killed him. But it’s nice that he did.”
“Sweetie, he died knowing he got two lonely people together. He was right; you do have a terrific tushy.”
“Oh gross. I can’t believe you men only discuss body parts. I’m smart, and I have ambitions. I’m taking classes at the community college. But, thank you, I also think my bippy is beautiful.”
Clarence kept eating breakfast at the diner. After a couple of days, detective Drake came back.
“Detective, can I buy you breakfast? You look beat and need some coffee.”
“Mr. Solander, what can you tell me about drugs”?
“Why so formal? You can call me Clarence. I just realized I never heard your first name.”
“I don’t like to say my first name; I’m Francis. The kids in school would tease me and call me sir, so don’t you either. What you tell me about drugs”?
“I take pain relievers when I hurt, usually aspirin. I don’t need the little blue pill yet. But if I keep spending time with Helen, I may need to. Why do you ask”?
“Detective Caffee may have been poisoned with a drug called Digoxin. It is a heart medication that can cause heart attacks in extremely high doses. The coffee mug in his car had a little coffee left. We believe he was drinking that as he got here the other morning. The drug was found in the coffee. It takes the bitterness of coffee to mask the taste of the drug.
That same drug was found in Mrs. Caffee’s coffee at home. The same pot she made that morning and the same Caffee was sipping on his way here. Did he say if he and his wife had been having problems”?
“No, like I said the other day, he didn’t mention much about her. We would talk about the area’s latest murder or suicide, or accidental death. Yes, that’s a bit ghoulish for breakfast talk, but you read it in the paper every day. Oh shit, do you think this was a murder-suicide”?
“That’s the working theory. Caffee had so much in his system; we’re amazed he didn’t cause an accident driving here. I do have another reason to be here. Caffee has or rather had a son in college. You seemed to be a friend; we are taking up a collection to help the boy out. Can I count you for a few bucks”?
Clarence took out his wallet, “I’ll be glad to help out. I don’t have much cash; here’s $40. Is that okay”?
“That’s more than most give. Thank you.”
“Detective, will there be a service that I might attend or send flowers.”
“We are having a wake at the cop bar by the station house. But it will be closed to the public. I believe a fund has been set up for donations.”
“Detective, Tim never told me what kind of cases he worked on for you folks. Can I ask”?
“At this point, it won’t matter. He was to be a surprise witness against a godfather of the local crime family. We are checking his wife’s background, in case she was somehow related.”
“Detective, thanks. Keep up the good work. If you want some breakfast conversation, I am usually here every day. I enjoyed discussing crime theories.”
As Drake was leaving, he said, “Mr. Solander, I’ll remember that.”
Helen sat down with Clarence. “What did he want”?
“He told me they think his wife killed him and then committed suicide. He also wanted a donation for their son’s education.”
“I’m sure you gave something. You two seemed to enjoy each other’s company.”
‘Helen, sweetie, I did enjoy his company, and I don’t like the idea that someone wanted him dead.”
“I’ve heard you talk about your job. It must lonely having to work alone and unknown. I’m here if you ever want to talk.”
Clarence said to Helen, “You know, I’m tired of all the murder.”
As Helen left the booth, Clarence quietly mumbled, “I am tired of committing all these murders this month, but it’s made me a damn good living.”
Bio: Bio: Dave Larson is best known for his research and writing on professional baseball in the early 1900s. His work has been published by SABR in journals and online. “I’m Tired of Murder” is his fourth story for The Yard: Crime Blog. His other stories include, Buxom Burgers and Flirty Fries, Burger Babes Truck Off, along with Crash and Dash. He lives in the Orlando, FL. area.