The tapioca pudding wiggled and jiggled as Dolores Nelson’s boney old hand slowly moved the spoon up to her mouth. Agents Walker and Bishop sat with the old lady in the nursing home’s cafeteria. It was late and they were the only three people in the entire room.
“I’m surprised you’re able to eat after what happened,” Sharon said.
“Oh honey,” Dolores said as she dropped a dollop of pudding on her lip. She didn’t notice and just left it there while she continued to eat. “When you get to be my age, you lose the ability to give a shit. For all I know I could die tomorrow and if that’s the case then I’m not going to miss out on what could very well be my last pudding cup ever.”
“Touche,” Sharon replied.
Gordon stared the old gal down. The old gal stared back.
Wham! Gordon pounded his fist on the table. “Let’s cut to the chase, ya’ old bag. Did you do it?”
Dolores appeared confused. “Do what?”
“Calm on!” Gordon shouted. “Don’t play coy with me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, young man,” Dolores said.
“You killed Herbert Hogan, didn’t you?” Gordon asked. “You eighty-sixed him! Put him under for the deep sleep, the long nap, the eternal siesta!”
Dolores clutched her pearls. “You…you think I had something to do with this?”
“I’ve been working murder cases for years and nine times out of ten the perp is always someone the victim was bumping uglies with,” Gordon said. “So what happened? Old Herb found an ugly to bump that was better than yours?”
The old lady’s eyes looked up and to the right. She took her time thinking about the question. “Not that I know of. I’m pretty much the hottest piece of ass in this joint, copper, but then again, that slut Estelle has been known to parade around in her adult diapers like some kind of common streetwalker.”
Gordon wagged his finger at Dolores. “That’s the ticket. Herb got himself way to deep in Estelle’s disposable underpants and you couldn’t take it, could you? It drove you wild with rage! It left you beside yourself with anger! You lost control and you grabbed a big blunt object and beat old Herb into oblivion!”
“No!” Dolores said. “Never!”
Wham! Gordon slammed the table again. “Admit it!”
“I admit nothing!” Dolores said. “Oink, oink, piggy!”
“And then,” Gordon said. “When you saw what you had done, you went berserk and you smashed the toilet and destroyed the water pipe. Just come clean you decrepit old hag. You’ll feel a lot better.”
Dolores set down the spoon and the pudding cup and held out her shaky hands. “Sonny, it just took me a half hour to get one spoonful of pudding out of a cup and into my face. You think I have the kind of strength it would take to beat a man to death?”
Gordon seethed with rage. Sharon patted her partner on the back, a sign that she was tagging herself in.
“Let’s try a different approach,” Sharon said.
A pile of napkins sat on the table. Sharon picked one up and dabbed the pudding off of the old lady’s chin. “I’m sorry, but that was bothering me.”
“Oh, thank you dear,” Dolores said.
Sharon picked up the cup, spooned up some pudding and brought it towards Dolores’ mouth. The old gal hesitated at first, but then she opened her mouth and ate the gooey goodness.
“Dolores,” Sharon said. “Did you have a job when you were younger?”
“Sure did,” Dolores said proudly. “I was a hooker!”
Gordon threw his hands up in the air. “That explains everything. Come on, we can’t trust a word this old bitty says.”
“A meat hooker,” Dolores said. “Worked at a meat packing plant in Wisconsin for thirty years. The slabs of beef would come in off the truck and I’d put them on hooks and send them on down the assembly line.”
Sharon smiled at Gordon. “You probably had to do some things you didn’t agree with on the job, right?”
“Oh sure,” Dolores said. “Sometimes I’d run out of hooks and I’d tell the boss, ‘If you want me to be a good hooker then you need to give me the supplies I need to the be the best damn hooker in this entire place.’”
Gordon placed his elbow on the table and leaned his chin on his hand, taking in the story as a spectator.
“We have to do things like that too,” Sharon said. “We don’t think you killed Herbert but we need to ask you if you did because eventually our boss will want to know if we asked you.”
“Oh,” Dolores said. “That makes more sense.”
Sharon spooned another glob of pudding into the old gal’s yap.
“I like you better than that shit for brains that was just here a minute ago, dear,” Dolores said.
“He’s still here,” Sharon said.
Dolores looked at Gordon. “Oh right. I knew that.”
“Let’s just get this out of the way,” Sharon said. “Did you kill Herb, Dolores?”
“And relieve my hey-nanner-nanner of his beautiful tongue tsunamis?” Dolores asked. “Not on your life, sweetheart.”
“Do you know who killed him?” Dolores asked. “Was there anyone who didn’t like him?”
“I can’t think of anyone,” Dolores said. “He kept to himself, mostly. He never bothered anyone.”
Sharon stirred the pudding. “Dolores, while you and Herb were…”
“Tripping the light fantastic?” Dolores asked.
“Sure,” Sharon said. “Did you see anyone come in your room.”
“Oh,” Dolores said. “I was the only one cumming in that room, honey.”
Gordon put the top of his fist up to his mouth to quell a dry heave.
“My love biscuit may have seen better days but it’s not ready to quit just yet,” Dolores said.
“Let me try asking this another way,” Sharon said. “No one else entered your room?”
“Nope,” Dolores said. “The only thing that entered was Herbert’s tongue…into my quivering puddle of lady jelly.”
Gordon looked away. On the cafeteria wall, there was a poster of a cat hanging onto a tree branch by its paws with the slogan, “Hang in there” printed underneath. Gordon tried his best to do just that.
“How are your eyes?” Sharon asked. “Do you see well?”
Dolores adjusted her glasses. “These seem to work but sometimes I have a hard time making things out.”
Sharon held up two fingers. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
Dolores squinted at Sharon’s fingers. She hemmed and hawed until she finally blurted out, “Four?”
“Useless,” Gordon said.
“Aww, shut up, shit for brains!” Dolores said.
“Stop jerking us around!” Gordon shouted.
Dolores performed a King Kong style fist thump on her chest. “You wanna go, piggy?”
“Oh,” Gordon said. “You think I won’t throw down with you just because you were born during the Woodrow Wilson administration?”
“Screw you and screw that spindly prick and his League of Nations!”
Sharon patted her partner on the shoulder, then spooned more pudding into Dolores’ pie hole, calming both adversaries down quickly.
“Let’s focus here,” Sharon said. “So OK, Dolores. You don’t see very well but, let’s say that a man with a woodchipper or a chainsaw or some big weapon were to walk into your room. You think you’d be able to see him?”
“What the hell kind of question is that?” Dolores asked.
“Just a theory I’m working on,” Sharon said.
“Of course,” Dolores said. “Sometimes, everything’s a bit blurry, but I can see you…”
Dolores pointed to Gordon. “…and I can see that giant gorilla you stuffed into a suit to make him like mildly presentable.”
Dolores looked around the room. “I can see tables and chairs and vending machines…”
“Right,” Sharon said. “So if a man with a big knife or something were in your room, you’d be able to realize he’s there?”
“I’d probably shit my pants,” Dolores said. “More so than usual.”
Sharon looked to her partner. Gordon nodded.
“I think we’re done here,” Sharon said.
Ted the orderly had been waiting in the back of the room the entire time. He helped Dolores up.
“Say, coppers?” Dolores said.
“Yes?” Sharon said.
“When you find that lousy, no-good son of a bitch that did in my Herbert, kick him in the balls for me, will you?”
“Sounds like you really loved him,” Sharon said.
“Well,” Dolores said. “Love is a complicated concept at my age, dear. Sure, I was fond of Herb, but what I really loved was straddling his sweet face like it was a wild, bucking bronco and holding on for dear life until completion.”
Gordon looked to Ted and pointed at the door. “Get her out of here.”
As soon as the parters were alone, they stood up.
“What a waste of time,” Gordon said.
“Not necessarily,” Sharon said. “We’ve got confirmation that in both cases, the suspect managed to sneak in and completely obliterate the victim without being seen.”
“You have an odd way of finding the bright side,” Gordon said.
“Beats being stuck in the dark side,” Sharon replied.
Gordon headed for the door. Sharon followed.
“Off to Sitwell,” Gordon said.
“Yeah,” Sharon said. “About that. There’s something about Sitwell I have to tell you about.”
“Oh?” Gordon asked.
“Actually,” Sharon said. “Make that more like someone.”