Any PI just out of school could have solved this case but it came to me because the Zoo was my territory. Perhaps this was because of my circus background. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I was there. I had a job to do.
I was called about 6 PM. I was just sitting down to a nice TV dinner, beef bourgoyne with mashed potatoes and gravy, and a can of Hamm’s Special Light Lager when the phone rang. Damn! I thought. Just when Dialing For Dollars was getting exciting. I reached over to the end table and picked up the phone, a red Nextel I took off my belt when I got home. As always.
“Hyellow,” I said.
“Is this Sammy Thimblerigger?”
“Sypeaking. Syammy Thimblerigger in person. Nyot an answering machine. Hate the dyamned things. Whyat d’ya want?”
“This is the Downtown Zoo. We got a problem with an ape. She’s gone mad. Jeez, you should see her! We can’t do nothing with her. We think it was something somebody gave her.”
“Syounds like the yape’s gone berserk. Tried a byaseball byat? Thyirty-four inch signed Reggie Jackson issue?”
“Hyow about an aluminum byaseball byat?”
“No. We can’t get near her.”
“You got a case there. They usually respond to this kyind of treatment. Yonly thing they understand.”
“This is a different kind of ape. Baba’s special.”
“Thyat’s what they yall say. They’re all alike. Yan ape’s an ape’s an ape. I’ll be right dyown.”
I sighed. No TV. No beef bourgoyne. What could be worse of an evening? So, I lifted my TV tray away, cursing the day I’d left the bargain on the wheeled variety go by, and carried my dinner to the kitchen. I drained the Hamm’s and put the dinner in the fridge carefully wrapped in Best Buy clear plastic wrap. It didn’t stick well. Maybe I’d break down and buy the more expensive brand next time. Be that as it may, I’d be back before too long. “Styupid yape,” I muttered under my breath as I crushed the can and tossed it in the garbage under the sink.
I got to the Zoo in no time flat. Lucky I guess. Hit a pocket of light traffic at traffic time. Even these people should be at home, I thought. What’s the matter with them?
They were waiting for me at the front gate. There was alot of growling and hooting and hollering going on behind them. The Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Secretary to the Superintendent in spine-tingling short skirt, Head Zookeeper, Assistant Head Zookeeper, the Ape House Supervisor and Winkin, Blinkin and Nod the three Ape House Attendant Drudges led me to the screaming meany. The Superintendent, dressed in white linen suit, shouted at me the entire way. The din was unbearable. I was literally deaf by the time we reached the offensive primate.
“Baba is special. She’s one of Koko’s apes. Speaks sign language.”
Yeah, right, I thought. An intelligent ape. A berserk intelligent ape. Sheesh.
We gathered around the eight-foot square cage. As the black hairy beast flung itself, not for the first time, at the iron bars and shouted at us incoherently, pearly whites flashing, we stepped back. She dropped to the concrete floor and began hooing and hawing and making furious hand signals. Baba was clearly disturbed. She beat her chest in cliché fashion. She jumped up and down. She flung herself at the bars again, reaching through and punching a huge undulating fist at us. We took another step back. This was one ticked off simian.
The lot of us retreated to the Superintendent’s office. He sat behind his oaken desk with the burnished gold pen and pencil set and the marble paperweight in the shape of a seated elephant and the glass ashtray that looked all the world like a turtle giving birth. The others took up their respective positions, Winkin, Blinkin and Nod on the fringes, near the door. I sat in one of the wing-back brown leather chairs with brass studs.
“Yokay. What’s the big yape saying?”
“We don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“We don’t know.”
“Hyave you called an interpreter?”
“We thought it best to wait til you got here.”
I knew just who to call. I’d worked with her before. Had several of her cards in my card catalogue at home. She’d had lots of experience with outrage before.
“I know just hywho to call. Lyet me see your phone.”
The Superintendent handed me a 1920′s stand-up job that looked all the world like a giraffe. I dialed the orange and white dialer. Modern kitsch, I thought. A dial pulse tone phone.
“Hyellow. Is Deb Brown in?. . .Thyis is Sammy Thimblerigger. . . .Hi to you too, officer. Heh-heh. . . .Dyebbie old girl. Y-it’s Sammy. Hyow ya doin’?. . . . Syorry about that but they’re gonna hafta fend for themselves. I got a hot one. . . Yat the Zoo. . . .Dyowntown. . . .Yeh. . . .Meetcha at the front gate.” I hung up. Passed the giraffe back to the Superintendent. “Problem solved. Dyebbie Brown is a Level III Interpreter. Shye’s good at dealing with myad people. Yif they don’t cuss too much. Shye doesn’t like signing them words. Makes her hyands feel dirty. Yif you know what I mean.”
They nodded. We waited. I went to the gate. Deb was there in no time.
“What have you got?”
“A myad ape.”
“And you need an Interpreter!?”
“Thyis is Baba. Yone of Koko’s breed.”
“Oh. I see.”
Baba was still acting up. She quieted down as soon as Deb started in with the hand jive. After a few frantic exchanges, Deb turned to me.
“I can’t say all that, Sammy. She says she wants George.”
“George is a male?”
“George is a human male. She says she loves him and must have him.”
“She says they talked for some time. He said he loved her, blew her a kiss and disappeared.”
“Yand she wants him back?”
“Yes. She says she’s ready to make a commitment.”
“Yokay. Lyet’s go byack to the office. They’ve got cameras. Syee?” I pointed upward and waved.
We got back to the office. Deb and I sat down in the wing-back brown leather chairs with the brass studs.
“She wants George. Apparently some guy came by and made a pass at her. She’s ready,” Debbie reported matter of factly.
“I see you have video camera coverage. Cyan we see the filum?”
Winkin, Blinkin and Nod departed. We waited.
“They should be ready now. Shall we go?”
The Superintendent led us all to the Security Booth. We all crammed into the small room behind the seated Security Guard in his mauve and blue epauletted uniform. He sat before a wall of 12″ TV screens. TNTC. He pointed to one.
“Dis heah is da ape cage camra.”
“Whyat time did Baba begin exhibiting this behavior?”
“I dunno. I wadn’t on den.”
“Winkin, Blinkin and Nod?” he asked in turn.
“About 2 PM,” they chorused in three-part harmony.
So, we had the Security Guard backtrack to about 1 PM. Sure enough, there was a man dressed in blue serge and red tie signing to Baba. Baba became excited. She came right down to the bars. They signed some more. The gent signed “I love you” and blew Baba a kiss. As he turned away, the camera caught a full facial.
“Thyat’s our man! Whyat’d he say?”
“I’m embarrassed to say. But the nicer parts were that he loved her and he wanted to marry her and something about a big banana. He’s kind of awkward at signing. She’s easier to understand.”
“Thyat’s our George!”
“Georgie Porgy puddin’n pie, kissed the girls and made them cry.”
“You’re perverse, Deb.”
“Just a little levity. May I go home now? I’ll send you the bill.”
She left. We got a picture of the perp. I went about my business. I’m a private eye.
To make a long story short, we found our man. Baba was insistent. There was nothing we could do. The long and the short of it is, if you go to the Downtown Zoo, you’ll see Baba and George together at last. George looks a little sheepish, though, without his suit.
Jimsecor is a long time social activist. As a playwright, he fell in love with Absurdism and this approach to writing has stayed with him. He’s written essays and articles and award winning tanka, become over-educated and traveled the world. His latest work is Det. Lupée: The Impossible Cases. But the very first detective mystery was the above, a flight of fancy. He can be found at home or at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com.