It was during the annual “Hell Yeah! Pickles!” festival that chaos arrived in our small town. Gherkin Queen Farmers Daughter #13 had been attacked, and people came to me for help. My name is Police Chief, the town butcher. My moniker confuses people, so they often ask me for assistance rather than going to the actual sheriff, Pool Hustler Conman. Because of these mix-ups, I had gotten my Private Investigator license from the Cracker Barrel Restaurant Learning Annex.|
Daughter #13 had been riding atop her float made of twenty-two million butter pickle slices held together with a mashed potato epoxy created by the Outlaw Biker Women’s Auxiliary. It was a beautiful, sun-drenched day. The high school band was on stage playing their Bob Dylan/Songs from the Methodist Hymnal/Bon Jovi freestyle medley as the parade sauntered through town.
The centerpiece of the parade was the Gherkin Queen float. It had just passed by the hardware store and turned down Dead End Lane when a hooded figure leapt onto the float. Daughter #13 was suddenly doused in horseradish, pinned between two enormous slices of pumpernickel, and sold to German tourists for fifty pfennigs and an autographed Django Reinhardt album.
Screams went up from the crowd, interrupting the band’s “Livin’ on a Prayer-Nearer My God to Thee-Lay, Lady, Lay” suite. Several men, a pregnant woman, a border collie, and a goat followed the hooded figure as he ran through the crowd, but he eventually slipped away by running into the Pickle Museum. The goat thought he had the perpetrator cornered at one point, but it turned out to be Mrs. Quackenmire with her new hairstyle and sideburns. They later found a black, hooded cowl lying on the floor in front of the Spears vs. Slices exhibit. That’s when the mayor came to me for help.
“I came to you for help,” Two-Term Mayor said gruffly.
“You know I’m the butcher, right?”
“You’re Police Chief.”
“Police Chief the butcher.”
“I don’t care about your tough guy nickname. The town needs you.”
I was going to try again but remembered the last time I attempted to convince the mayor I wasn’t the chief of police. As I stated in my sworn deposition, I was trying to prove I wasn’t the sheriff when I shot the mayor in the foot.
Sighing, I turned to Retired Crank who had been driving the float and asked, “Did you see anyone suspicious before the attack?”
“Honestly,” Retired started while scratching his week’s worth of white chin stubble, “I was blinded by the dripping brine from those pickle slices. The car wasn’t even on the parade route; I had driven into an alley, and Daughter #13 was waving to a pack of schnauzers that had been following us for miles. The girl’s not too bright.”
“Show respect for the sash,” the mayor interjected. I turned to him. Tall and portly, he still wore his ceremonial sash and top hat.
“Where were you when it happened?” I asked.
“I was climbing up the front of the float to read my keynote speech, ‘Kosher Dill Pancakes: Perfection in a Griddle Cake.’ I was halfway there when the birds arrived.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot about the birds,” Retired growled.
“Hundreds of starlings descended on the float to eat the pickles, and then the cannon went off to start the Pickled Pepper 10K.”
“Wait!” Retired shouted. “I was washing pickle juice from my eyes with a mixture of Dr. Pepper and mustache wax when I thought I saw a sandwich running in the race and singing, “I’m a little butterbrot about to burst. Here is my wiener schnitzel, here is my wurst.” I wasn’t hallucinating! It was Daughter #13.”
“I think you were hallucinating a little,” the mayor mumbled.
It sounded to me like the horseradish was making Farmers Daughter #13 hallucinate. If she was running in the 10K at the same time, there was no way she would stay on the race route. She could end up hurt or lost.
Jumping into my truck, I drove to the starting line and followed the route, scanning both sides of the road for any sign of our missing Gherkin Queen. At the four-mile mark, I spotted a man, a woman, and two children pushing a wheelbarrow of sauerkraut. The father was begging, “Kommst du hier ausgezeitnet sandwich! We are starving like Frenchmen in need of a comprehensive labor policy that won’t result in never-ending strikes and sectarian violence.”
I drove past the German tourists to where the road forked. To the left was the race route through the Bea Arthur Memorial Housing Development. To the right, the road disappeared into the woods and became a dirt path. I took the right because I saw horseradish on the ground.
I parked my truck, told the Germans I didn’t know where their “funny little sandwich” had gone, and no, I didn’t want to buy a quart of Herr Schmeckler’s Saucy Schlesswig Sauerkraut. I ran through the trees, following the condiment trail until I saw something move behind a wall of bushes. I stuck my head through and saw Farmers Daughter #13 being wrestled into a hunting shack by Sheriff Conman and his deputy, Third-Degree Assault.
I was shocked to see that the culprit was our own sheriff. He wasn’t the greatest lawman we’d ever had, but I hadn’t thought he was capable of assaulting a young woman and ruining the pickle festival. Just last year, he had volunteered to be dunked in a vat of sweet relish to raise money for our new Danny Bonaduce Elementary School.
To take down someone with his experience, I knew I needed help, so I called some friends on my cell phone. Loud Mouth, Staunch Republican, and Believes-He’s-An-Alien showed up thirty minutes later with the supplies I had asked for.
Strapping branches and bush pieces to our bodies, the four of us sneaked up on the cabin. Staunch Republican went around the back, climbed an adjacent tree, and lowered himself onto the roof of the shack holding a fishing net. The rest of us spread out to surround the cabin and tried to attract the kidnappers’ attention.
“Where is the police chief?” I shouted. “I want to bribe him with Slim Jims and Arby’s coupons.”
Loud Mouth rambled, “My version of government includes a house of Libertarian fanaticism, a children’s choir, and a battle royale format for the passage of laws.”
“When are my people coming back for me?” Alien pleaded. “It doesn’t take twelve millennia to fix a faulty timing belt on a spaceship.”
“Mmm, spicy beef pressed into a cylinder!” I tried again.
“My gall stones could choke a Hungarian beaver,” Loud Mouth bellowed.
Alien cried, “K-Pax? Kevin Spacey, why? You were so good in Seven.”
The door of the shack finally swung open.
“What’s going on out here?” Pool Hustler Conman yelled, looking around to find where the voices were coming from. Third-Degree Assault followed him out the door, and Staunch Republican dropped the net. It fell over them, and the two lawmen fought to free themselves. We ran to grab the net and held on tight, pulling the ends together to tie with a strong rope. When the sheriff and his accomplice realized they were trapped, they finally stopped fighting. They lay on the forest floor, giving us the biggest fish tale we’ll ever have. After Staunch Republican got Farmers Daughter #13 out of the cabin and took her to get cleaned up, I knelt down next to Pool Hustler Conman.
“I’m making a citizen’s arrest,” I proclaimed, holding up my PI license. The sheriff looked and read the card: “Cracker Barrel Scrambled Egg Club Member #3210.”
Embarrassed, I turned the card over and revealed my authority.
“This is all your fault,” Pool Hustler growled. “I’m the sheriff, but everyone goes to you for help. I hate this town.”
“You mean you wrecked the biggest festival of the year because you were jealous?”
“Just because of my name, no one trusted me. So my mom named me Pool Hustler, and our last name happened to be Conman; it doesn’t mean I’m a bad guy.”
“But...you are a bad guy.”
“I didn’t have to be; that’s my point. This town drove me to crime.”
“And what about your cohort here?” I asked, pointing to Third Degree Assault.
“He’s just a jackass.”
Loud Mouth helped me get our two criminals back to the town jail, while Believes-He’s-an-Alien stayed behind in the woods hoping to get a signal from his home world. When Farmer’s Daughter #13 had had some time to calm down and get showered and changed, the town finished the Peck of Pickles Parade. Despite all the commotion, it turned out to be a great festival.
A few weeks later, in a special election, I was named the town’s new sheriff by getting six of the nine votes cast, four of which came from feral cats. Meat Cleaver became the new butcher, and I am now officially Police Chief, Chief of Police.