“The green leaf? We talking trees? The leaves are starting to turn, Bro. It’s going to be tough once they start falling off the trees. Is this twenty-two question? I love that game. Is it vegetable or mineral or a trapezoid? Notice how I combined three questions into one, that’s how you play to win,” said Pickle obviously proud of his intellect.
Fleming’s eyes turned blank. His jaw dropped a tad. Gillis came to his rescue, “Dill, it’s obvious Bro hasn’t learned this intellectual pursuit. Let me put it another way to him. Bro, what do you mean the answer is the green leaf?”
“The Green Leaf is a vegan restaurant. It is the answer to where I saw the cufflink. Sonata Vowel, the owner’s son has a set of cufflinks identical to the one in the picture. They’re solid gold and if you look carefully, you’ll see a tiny v scrolled on the bottom right. All vegan males are required to wear them once they’re admitted into the vegan club. First you have to be nominated. Then you have to be vetted. The vetting process is very strict. The vegans hire an outside firm to do a background check on you. If they find out you do not have vegan purity, you’re out. If you get past the vetting, you are interviewed. I’ve heard rumors of nominees leaving in tears after the interview. Sampson has gone through it twice and failed. He was devastated and went into a deep depression. He had to go through dialectical behavior therapy each time. I still don’t think he’s fully healed. I’m sure he failed because of my background. Fortunately for me, the committee never divulges the report. Sampson’s offered to have a DNA test to prove his purity. If he ever finds out I really a carnivore he’ll toss me out and blacklist me. He’s trying to get himself nominated a third time.”
“That’s nice,” said Gillis not listening to a word Fleming said. “It’s my turn to talk. When was the last time you saw Sonata?” asked Gillis.
“Last night. I remember it because his father, Treble Vowel, is the cook. He sent Sampson and me a special plate of Bolero, named after Ravel’s famous work.”
“Hold on,” stammered Pickle. “Who’s this Bolero and Ravel? You sure it’s not Bolero and Ravioli, the mobsters from Chicago?”
Fleming turned quickly to Gillis for an interpretation. Gillis looked up from his iPhone. He said, “What?”
“I need help, detective Gillis. Detective Pickle thinks Bolero is a mobster and Ravel is really Ravioli and their mobsters from Chicago.”
Gillis checked his iPhone. He was waiting for a response from Wendy about her side of the bed preference. Gillis preferred the side closest to the bathroom. He told her she could choose.
Gillis looked up at Fleming, “I’ve heard of them. What does the Chicago mob want with monkey innards. We answer that question, we solve the case.”
Fleming felt emotionally drained. He said, “Sonata wore the exact same cufflink.”
Pickle perked up. If he were a dog, one might think the owner said, ‘doggy treat.’ Pickle said, “Hold on, hold on, Bro.” He sets his cup down, “You said cufflink, not cufflinks.”
Fleming smiled, “Nice catch, Detective Pickle. Sonata is a nice guy. I didn’t want to get him in trouble. He’s got enough on his plate. Did you like my play on words? The Green Leaf restaurant. Enough on his plate?”
Gillis and Pickle stared blankly at Fleming.
Fleming continued, “Thing is, Sonata kept his right hand in his pants pocket. Never pulled it out while he was here.”
“That seems unusual to me. That strike you as strange, Bro,” said Gillis checking out photos of Wendy he took when she wasn’t looking.
“I have a theory about it, Gills. Maybe his boys were itchy,” said Pickle.
Gillis’ iPhone chimed. He looked at it and gave Pickle a wink. He opened the iPhone, tapped the messages app. He beamed, “Wendy agreed to sleep with me, Dill. This is the best day ever. I’ll have to buy a dozen ribbed for her pleasure rough rider condoms. We’ll use all of them.”
“I thought you didn’t like condoms,” said Pickle.
“I’m practicing being a sensitive male. Tomorrow, I’ll convince her to let me go a natural,” said Gillis.
“What did she say? You can read it front of Bro. He’s one with us now that he’s giving us free stuff under the table,” said Pickle.
Gillis read Wendy’s text, “Sleep in your bed? Never!!!! I prefer the dump.”
Gillis commented, “Wendy wants to go camping. She likes to do it out doors. Bro, you know if Sampson has any camping equipment you can give me and add it to the robbery?”
Fleming’s heart rate accelerated. Why did I agree to give him the priceless china? Why did I agree to give them the expensive Jamaican coffee? Why am I listening to them? The questions raced around and around in his mind like a gerbil on a treadmill.
Pickle interrupted the pattern. He said, “Here’s what you do, Gills. Text Wendy and tell her all the camp sites at the dump have been previously reserved by the homeless. Let her know her bed is okay, even if the sheets still smell of Pat.”
“Brilliant, Dill. I’m sending it word for word. I owe you one,” said Gillis.
Pickle turned his attention back to Fleming, “Did you ask him if his boys were itchy? Was he scratching them with his right hand?”
Gillis stepped in before Fleming could answer, “That’s a sensitive issue with guys if you know what I mean, Dill. We each have our favorite way of scratching. Ball players like to do it on TV. Ballet dancers got to numb the area while they perform because their pants are so tight. Me? I prefer to turn my back to the crowd, suck in my gut and go right after the itch. It’s a full arm thrust.”
“That takes guts, Gills Back to you, Bro. Anything else about Sonata seem unusual.”
Fleming’s head felt like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn. He said, “Sonata asked if the police had any leads on the killers. I told him you guys were running in circles. No offense meant, it was before I knew we were all low blood sugar guys.”
Pickle stood up. He slammed his fist on the table hard enough to send the three rare, gold embossed China coffee cups and their plates to the floor. Fleming screamed, “I’m finished. It’s over. I won’t be able to show my face in town. Sampson is ruthless.”
Gillis patted Sampson on the back, “It’s okay big guy. Give me the rest of the set, it’ll make the robbery look better. When we leave, toss the rest in the garbage. While you’re packing my cups and saucers, Jamaican coffee and cheesecake, toss in the painting of the Reclining Nude by Modigliani.”
“It’s priceless. I can’t do that,” whimpered Fleming.
“That’s just it, Bro. I’m taking something off your hands that isn’t worth anything. I’ll grab in on the way out. No need to trouble yourself. It will go great in my man cave. Wendy will love it. We’re on our way to the veggie place. Snap it up with the goods. I expect to frolic in Wendy’s bed tonight.”
“If you need a good recommendation, use Gills and me for references. Our word goes a long way in this town,” said Pickle walking into the living room to view the painting he missed seeing on the way in.