Let's Talk Turkey
A.J. looked up from the grocery bag he was unpacking.
"Oh, Rick, by the way, you haven't forgotten, have you?"
Rick's eyes never left the football game he was watching on his brother's television set.
"No, I haven't forgotten."
A.J. sighed with exasperation at his preoccupied sibling, while storing the last of his groceries in a cabinet.
"And just what is it you haven't forgotten?"
Rick's attention remained riveted on the Chargers.
"Whatever it is I'm suppose ta' remember."
"And just what would that be?"
"For cryin' out loud, A.J.! I'm tryin' to watch the game here, and for some odd reason you've decided to give me a pop quiz! Would ya' just leave me alone until this quarter ends?"
A.J. shrugged. "Okay, fine. I'll leave you alone. But don't come crying to me when you screw it up and Mom goes after your hide with her wooden spoon."
The threat of his mother coming after his hide convinced Rick it was in his best interest to focus his attention on his sibling.
"Screw what up?"
"I thought you wanted me to leave you alone."
"But you said you didn't want me to bother you until—“
"A.J..." Rick rose from the couch.
"This quarter was over. So if you don't want me to bother you, then I'll just keep quiet. Of course, by the time the game ends, I probably won't remember what it is I wanted to remind you of in the first place, but I guess if you'd rather I not..."
Rick advanced on his sibling with a menacing snarl.
"A.J., dammit! Stop playing this stupid little game with me. I don't like it any better now than I did when you were eight."
A.J. wrinkled his nose in the way that always reminded Rick of his brother at age eight.
"But it still works as good as it did when I was eight. At least you're no longer mesmerized by that stupid TV set."
"Yeah, and now that I'm no longer mesmerized, as you put it, whatever it is you wanted to remind me of had better be important."
"Oh...it is," A.J. assured slowly, stretching out the moment, and his brother's patience. "It is."
"Well, what is it for God's sake?"
"Thanksgiving is Thursday."
Rick's mouth drop opened with incredulous disgust.
"That's it? That's what you pulled me away from a Chargers game to tell me? That Thanksgiving is Thursday? So? Big deal! I know Thanksgiving is Thursday."
"Then I assume you also know what it means."
"Well 'a course I know what it means! It means more football and lots of food."
"That's not all it means."
"Okay, then, it means...well, it means pilgrims and Indians sitting down together to give thanks for the first successful harvest in the New World. Which in turn, today means we gather with our friends and loved ones on the fourth Thursday in November, a day not officially marked as the Thanksgiving holiday until President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared it as such, and we rejoice together our good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people." Rick finished with a disinterested shrug. "Or some such garbage."
A.J. looked heavenward and shook his head in amazement.
"Well, if nothing else, it's nice to discover you read the section in today's paper on the history of Thanksgiving. Although I think the ‘good tidings of great joy’ part of your story comes one holiday too early."
Rick waved a hand in dismissal. "Whatever. Nonetheless, I answered your question. I told ya' what Thanksgiving means. Now can I go back to watchin' my football game?"
"Not just yet," A.J. negated. "Now, where exactly is it we're gathering this year for the holiday celebration you just so heartwarmingly described?"
"I don't know. At Aunt Pat's, or Aunt Carolyn's, or Mom's, or whoever's turn it is. You know I can't keep that kinda stuff straight. Just point me in the right direction and I'll be there."
"No doubt," A.J. muttered under his breath. "However, if you think real hard, you may recall that back in August you, and Mom, and I, agreed to spend Thanksgiving with Town and Temple at Town's apartment."
"We did?" Rick's eye lit up and he rubbed his hands together in glee. "All right! That means we don't have to laugh at Uncle Fred's stupid jokes this year, or tell Aunt Marion it looks like she lost weight when we really think she gained it, or tell some cousin their kid is cute, when the little bugger's really an obnoxious brat, or tell Aunt Eleanor her candied yams are the best ever, when they really make us wanna puke."
"You have such an eloquent way of describing our family, Rick."
"Regardless of how I describe 'em, everything I just said is the truth. So now that you mention it, yeah, I do remember we made plans to spend the day with Town and Temple. They were gonna be alone otherwise or somethin' like that, weren't they?"
"Yes, they were. Town's mother is spending the holiday with his brother's family in Ohio, and Temple's folks are going to be at her sister's in Arizona. Her brother is going to be with his wife's family, and Town's sister is going to be--"
"Wherever. It makes no difference to me where all them people are supposed to be. I'm lucky if I remember where I'm supposed to be."
"On most days I've found that to be true," A.J. agreed with dripping sarcasm. "But to get back to my original point, do you recall what you said when we agreed to have Thanksgiving dinner at Town's?"
Rick cocked his head in thought.
"Well...not exactly. Though I probably said somethin' like, 'I'll be there,' or 'You can count me in,' or 'I sure do love Temple's pumpkin pies,' cause that part woulda' been a hint for Temple, ya' know."
"Yes, I know. As a matter of fact you said all those things, and Temple did indeed, pick up on your...subtle hint because she volunteered to bake the pies. Pumpkin and apple."
"Great. I like both of 'em. I'll probably have a piece of each."
"I’m sure you will," A.J. agreed. "And Town volunteered to make the mashed potatoes, the cranberries, and the dinner rolls."
Rick licked his lips like Marlowe at dinnertime.
"Mmmmm, I sure do love Town's rolls. He makes 'em from scratch."
"Yes, he does. And you're right, they're very good. Now Mom's bringing two Jell-O salads and the sweet potatoes."
"I like Mom's sweet potatoes. And her Jell-O's are the best. I hope she brings that one with the cherry pie filling and the cream cheese. I suppose it's pretty fattening, but man, it sure is good."
"Yes, it is. And rest assured, Mom is bringing that one," A.J. said. "As for me, I'll be bringing two bottles of wine and two hot vegetable casseroles."
"Are you gonna make that one with the green beans and the little crispy onion chips on top? You know how much I love that one, A.J."
"Yes, I do know how much you love it. And yes, I'm bringing it."
"All right! This sounds like it's shapin' up to be the best Thanksgiving we ever had." Rick turned to head back to the couch and his football game. "We shoulda' thought about havin' Thanksgiving with Town and Temple a long time ago."
"Uh...Rick, hold up a minute there."
Rick turned around. "What?"
"Did you happen to notice anyone missing from my list of who is bringing what to Town's?"
Rick held up his right hand and counted off on his fingers.
"Well, let's see. You said Temple was doing the pies, and Town is doin' a buncha good stuff including the rolls, and Mom is doing the Jell-O's and the sweet potatoes, and you're doing the vegetables and bringing the wine, and...oh. I guess everyone kinda forgot about me, huh? Oh, well. Maybe next year I can bring--"
"Rick, no one forgot about you, but you. And actually, you did volunteer to bring something to Town's."
"Yes, you did."
Rick thought hard while trying to pretend he knew this fact all along.
"Yeah, now that you mention it, you're right. I did. I volunteered to bring the...beer, didn't I?"
A.J. shook his head. "No, Rick, not the beer."
"Well...then...probably a couple a' containers of dip, and a few bags of chips. You know, to nibble on while we wait for the turkey to finish cook..." Rick's eyebrows drew together and frown lines furrowed his forehead. "Hey, wait a minute. You never said who was making the turkey."
A.J. smiled more broadly.
Rick backed up as if his brother was advancing on him, though in reality, A.J. hadn't moved at all.
"Oh, no. Not me. I've never cooked a turkey in my life."
"That's not what you said the night the five of us discussed all this. You said, and I quote, 'Hey guys, I can bring the turkey. I'll stuff it, then cook it in A.J.'s oven since the oven on the Hole In The Water isn't big enough. Then, as soon as it's done, A.J. and I will bring it on over.’ "
swallowed hard. "I said
A.J. folded his arms across his chest and nodded.
"Yes, you sure did."
"A.J., just exactly how much had I had to drink when I said that?"
"Believe me, Mom and I were wondering the same thing. Nonetheless, nothing we were able to say could dissuade you. You insisted on being the one who was going to cook the turkey. Hence, the reason behind this whole conversation you so vehemently did not want to take part in just a few minutes ago."
Rick reached for the remote control on the coffee table and shut off the TV. "Yeah, well, forget that for now." The lanky man perched a hip on one of the stools at the breakfast bar. "What the hell am I gonna do? I've never cooked a turkey before."
"It's not that difficult."
"No. Just pull out one of my cookbooks and read the instructions for roasting a turkey. Oh, and also the instructions for preparing the stuffing. Then write down what you need from the grocery store and go pick those items up."
Rick walked around to the countertop behind the stove where A.J. kept his cookbooks.
"It's that easy, huh?"
"Yes, it's that easy. And if you run into any trouble, I'll be here to lend you a hand."
"You will? Gee, A.J., thanks. I really appreciate it."
Rick carried his armload of cookbooks into the den and retrieved the remote as he rounded the coffee table.
"Where are you going?"
"Right here," Rick answered as he plopped his butt on the couch. He aimed the remote at the TV and clicked it back on to the football game.
"I thought you were going to study the cookbooks and make your shopping list."
"I am. I can do that while I watch the rest of the game."
"Rick, if you want my advice, you'll skip the game and get to a store to buy the turkey."
"What's the big rush?"
"It's four days before Thanksgiving, that's what's the big rush. Every housewife in San Diego has been out this weekend shopping for her turkey. Believe me, I know. I just got done fighting the frenzied masses at the checkout lane. Because of that, the stores will be getting low on turkeys. Plus, it will take a couple of days to get a turkey thawed. You'd better go out right now and pick it up. Get a twenty pounder. That's bigger than we need for just five people, but will give us plenty of leftovers to split up between Town, Temple, and Mom."
"Sure, A.J.," the preoccupied Rick nodded. "Whatever."
"Rick, you haven't heard a word I just said."
"Yes, I have." Rick's eyes never left the TV as he recited with ease, "You said I needed to get the bird soon 'cause all the housewives have been grabbin' 'em up like their gold or somethin', and that it should weigh twenty pounds so we have plenty of leftovers."
"So are you going to do it?"
"Get off my couch and go get the damn turkey!"
Rick threw his brother a sidelong glance.
"Geez, A.J., the holidays sure do make you grumpy. I think you'd better go upstairs and take a nap."
"I intend to. Or at least read for a while, if nothing else. And you had better get to the grocery store."
"Yeah, yeah, I will. Just as soon as the game is over."
"Don't forget, it's Sunday. Most of the grocery stores are closed by six on Sunday's."
"Yeah, I know. Just relax. Now that you reminded me I'm supposed to bring the gobbler, I’ve got everything under control."
A.J. couldn't fathom how his brother, who was in such a panic just minutes earlier at the prospect of cooking a turkey, could now have everything under control. But he wasn't going to argue. If Rick screwed this holiday up he'd have to deal with their mother. A.J. had already purchased all the items he'd need to make the promised dishes he was to provide for the meal. So, he would do as Rick said - he'd quit worrying about it and let big brother look out for himself.
A.J. smiled as he passed his sibling on the way to the stairs.
It sure isn't going to be my problem if you mess this one up, Rick. No siree, not my problem at all.
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It was seven o'clock on Sunday evening before A.J. returned downstairs. He'd read for a while in the peaceful haven of his bedroom, then had fallen asleep for two hours. The TV was off and the house deserted. Obviously Rick had taken A.J.’s advice and made a trip to the grocery store.
A.J. was poking his nose into the refrigerator, trying to decide what to make for dinner, when the door opened. Before the blond man even turned around the heady smell of Italian sausage, melted cheese, and hot tomato sauce filled his senses.
Rick entered the house carrying a large cardboard box that bore the logo of a local pizzeria, Marlowe following at his heels.
"Hey, little brother, don't worry about dinner tonight. I got us covered."
"I wasn't planning on worrying about dinner for you," A.J. stated, in what was a continuous effort to remind Rick that, though the Hole In The Water was moored in A.J.'s side yard, the blond man was not his brother's cook, housekeeper, or laundry boy. "But it was nice of you to bring home enough for both of us. What do I owe you?"
Rick pulled two cold beers out of the refrigerator.
"Nothin.’ It's my treat tonight."
"Thanks," A.J. replied, as he moved to the cabinet to retrieve paper plates and napkins.
"Hey, for my baby brother, anything."
A.J.'s eyes narrowed, and he halted in the act of pulling a slice of pizza off the cardboard. His hand remained suspended in mid-air with hot strings of mozzarella trailing downward.
is that supposed to mean?"
Rick rounded the snack bar to take a seat at one of the high stools. He spoke around a mouthful of pizza.
"What is what, supposed to mean?"
"That last remark you made. The 'anything for my baby brother' remark."
"Nothing!" Rick declared a little too adamantly, and a little too innocently, for A.J.'s tastes.
"All right, all right. It just means that I'm probably gonna need your help when I make the stuffing for the turkey. I did read your cookbooks and all like you said, but it still sounds kinda complicated."
A.J. resumed filling his plate with pizza and rounded the counter to the remaining stool.
"I already told you I'd help, so don't worry about it. We'll get the stuffing ready Wednesday night."
"Great. But the turkey thing, that I can handle by myself. Based on what the cookbook said, there's not much to it. Just stuff that baby, baste it every so often with a little melted butter, and watch 'er bake."
A.J. took a swallow of beer and nodded his head.
"That's about it. Did you find a good one?"
"A good what?"
'A good leg of lamb! For heaven's sake, Rick, a good turkey."
"Gee, that nap didn't help your disposition much, but to answer your question, no I didn't find a good one. 'Cause like you said, the stores close at six."
"A.J., pull your underwear outta your crack, will ya'? It's not that big of a deal. I'll get the turkey on my way home from work tomorrow."
"Don't forget we have to be in court all day tomorrow, and in the evening we have to follow Mr. Donner's wife."
"Oh, man," Rick moaned, "I get so sick of these damn cheatin' spouse cases. The last thing I wanna do after spending the day in a boring courtroom is follow some woman who's sleepin' around on her ole' man."
A.J. took another swig of beer and reached for more pizza.
"I don't want to do it anymore than you do, but it's jobs like that one that keep meat on our table. Or in this case, pizza on our table. Hopefully there will come a day when we can afford to turn down jobs such as those, but as of yet the business checking account doesn't allow us to pick and choose at will."
"Well, I'll sure be glad when it does, let me tell ya'."
"You and me both. But regardless, that doesn't solve your current dilemma."
"The turkey, Rick! The turkey!"
"Oh, yeah. The turkey. Well...maybe we'll have a chance to stop and get one in-between following Mrs. Donner."
"Don't count on it. Donner almost fired us last week because we lost her trail. We can't afford to blow it again this week. He's expecting us to find out when and where she's meeting the guy. And he's expecting us to get pictures. I hardly think we're going to have the time to make a little side trip to the market just so you can buy the turkey you should have bought a week ago."
"You know, A.J., the trouble with you is everything has to be done weeks earlier than necessary." Rick scooted the pizza box closer and refilled his plate. "I've still got plenty of time to get the bird. If nothing else, we'll find an all-night grocery store and pick it up after we've nailed Old Lady Donner and her lover-boy."
"We'll find an all-night grocery store? I hate to break the news to you, Rick, but I'm finished with the shopping I need to do for Thanksgiving."
"Yeah, I know that. And you've probably already got your Christmas shopping done, too, the presents wrapped, and your cards addressed."
Rick rolled his eyes. "Figures. But see, by living your life that way, you end up eliminating all the fun and excitement."
"No, what I end up doing is eliminating all the stress."
"I don't think so."
"Cause you sure are stressed out enough over this turkey, and it's not even you who has to bring it."
"That's because somehow, someway, I know if you screw this up, I'll end up paying the price for it."
"Now just how is that gonna happen? If I don't get the turkey, which I will, but if by some fluke I don't, Mom and Town are gonna be mad at me, not at you."
"I know that's the way it should end up, but call me silly, or call me intuitive, or better yet, just call me experienced. Somehow, I just have a feeling, your mess will end up becoming my mess."
Rick rose to go outside and dump the empty pizza carton in the garbage can.
"Ain't gonna happen, little brother. I promise you. I vow one way or another, I will get the turkey tomorrow, and that ole' Tom will be thawing in your refrigerator by tomorrow night."
A.J. watched as his brother disappeared out the kitchen door into the darkness.
"I hope so, Rick. For both our sake's, I sure the heck hope so."
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It was eight-thirty on Tuesday morning when a weary and tousled A.J. made his way down the stairs. He belted his bathrobe and ran a hand over the beard stubble that covered his face, being careful to avoid his tender, swollen lower lip. He didn't even want to look in a mirror until he'd had a cup of coffee and a hot shower. He tried to rotate his right shoulder, and discovered that movement was more stiff and painful now than it had been several hours earlier.
The blond detective hadn't gotten in until three-fifteen that morning. That's when he and Rick finished giving their statements at the police station, and had been allowed to leave. What time Rick came in A.J. wasn't sure. After dropping A.J. off at the Camaro parked in the lot outside Simon and Simon Investigations, Rick was headed across town to an all-night grocery store to pick up the much sought-after turkey.
Mr. Donner had neglected to mention the object of his wife's affections was a professional wrestler. The Simon brothers managed to gain entrance into the couple's hotel room under the guise of room service, a ploy that had worked for them countless times in the past when they'd had to gather evidence of adultery for a divorce case. A.J. pushed a cloth-covered cart into the room laden with fresh fruit, bagels, muffins, pads of butter, miniature containers of jam, and a bottle of chilled champagne in a sterling silver bucket. Rick was sitting hunched over on the second shelf of the cart, hidden by the cloth. A hole just big enough for a camera lens to peer through had been delicately cut out of the burgundy tablecloth. While A.J. went about discreetly setting the midnight snack on the room's only table, Rick took pictures of the couple lounging together in bed. Despite A.J.'s presence, they kissed and fondled underneath the sheet Mrs. Donner had pulled up to cover her naked breasts.
The ploy would have worked, too, had it not been for the legitimate hotel employee who wheeled in a cart while brightly announcing, "Room service!" two minutes after A.J. had done the exact same thing.
The stark naked wrestler, all three hundred pounds of him, leapt out of bed with an enraged roar. Before A.J. had a chance to even think about defending himself, he'd been picked up like a child and thrown across the room. He landed against the far wall with a resounding thud.
A.J.'s cart got the same treatment with Rick still on board. When it hit the wall next to where A.J. had landed, Rick tumbled out in a tangled heap of arms, legs, and camera. The young man who had entered the room after the Simons raced out in a panic. It was probably his quick action in calling the police that saved the Simon brothers from serious harm. As it was, by the time San Diego's finest showed up to arrest all three men, the room was completely destroyed. Lamps had been thrown, the TV screen shattered, the dresser overturned, a chair had gone through a window and landed on top of a Mercedes Benz in the parking lot below, and Mrs. Donner was running around the room in a naked panic, flapping her arms and clucking like an hysterical chicken at butchering time, while frantically trying to unearth her clothes amidst the mayhem.
A.J. looked out the window now to see Rick's truck parked in the driveway. If nothing else, he knew Rick had made it home safely and was sleeping in his bunk on the Hole In The Water. As the blond man moved about the kitchen preparing his breakfast, he took note of the empty space on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. He had made room for the promised turkey the previous morning before they left for the courthouse. He briefly wondered if the vacant shelf meant Rick still hadn't gotten the turkey.
No, that can't be it. Rick was headed to that all-night grocery store when he dropped me off at the Camaro. He must have decided not to chance waking me up by bringing it in the house. If the turkey was frozen solid, he probably knew it wouldn't hurt it to sit on the countertop in the boat until he wakes up and brings it in here.
A.J. didn't think anymore about Thanksgiving Day's main course as he ate his breakfast, then went upstairs to shower. A half hour later he returned to the kitchen feeling somewhat more alive and vibrant, and a little less sore. The blond man, dressed in gray slacks, a tweed sport coat, white shirt, and gray and blue tie, left a note on the refrigerator door for his brother.
I went to the office. See you there later. Don't forget we've got an appointment with a potential client at two o'clock.
P.S. And don't forget to put the turkey in the refrigerator.
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Rick rushed into the Simon and Simon office just seconds before their two o'clock appointment arrived, leaving the brothers no time to exchange more than quick hellos. Rick had fared even worse than A.J. during the previous evening's altercation, and was sporting a black eye, bruised jaw, throbbing head, and three sprained fingers to prove it.
They spent forty-five minutes with their new client, then saw her to the door. Despite the fatigue that was settling over both detectives like a heavy blanket, they locked up the office and immediately began working on the case they'd just been hired for. If they were able to retrieve for the woman, in less than one week, what she was so desperately searching for, she was promising a two thousand dollar bonus. Rick thought that bonus would come in handy for Christmas shopping. . .as well as for a few ‘presents’ for himself, of course, while A.J. thought it would fatten their bank account quite nicely.
It was eight o'clock when the weary detectives dragged themselves into A.J.'s house. Marlowe shot by them on his way out the door.
"Don't wander too far, big guy!" Rick called after the dog. "The last thing I feel like doin' tonight is arguin' with ole' man Gorman 'cause you watered his lawn instead of A.J.'s."
A.J. tossed his car keys and sport coat on the countertop. Rick's hat and field jacket followed. The blond walked over to the refrigerator and tugged on the handle.
"What do you want to eat?"
"Whatever you've got is fine." Rick rounded the snack bar, sank onto a stool, and allowed his upper body to sprawl across the countertop. "Don't go to any trouble."
A.J.'s head lolled backwards and his eyes closed of their own volition. "Don't worry," he mumbled, "I'm not planning to. How about sandwiches and soup?"
"Fine with me," Rick agreed.
With great effort, Rick pushed himself to an upright position and forced himself to help his brother. He stumbled over to the cabinet where A.J. kept the canned goods and pulled out two cans of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup. He bent down to retrieve a saucepan, then opened the drawer that housed the silverware.
A.J. reached blindly into the refrigerator, and by nothing more than feel, came up with leftover roast beef, mustard, and mayonnaise.
It wasn't until A.J. opened his eyes to search for the twelve pack of Coke he had moved off the bottom shelf the previous day, that he noticed the shelf was bare of what was supposed to be residing there.
A.J. turned to his brother, who was standing at the stove stirring the slowly warming soup.
"Hey, where's the turkey? You didn't forget and leave it out on the boat all day, did you?"
"No, I didn't forget and leave it out on the boat all day. I haven't bought it yet."
A.J. was able to put more energy behind his exclamation than he thought he had left.
"You haven't bought it yet? What do you mean you haven't bought it yet? That's where you were going when you dropped me off at my car this morning."
"Yeah, I know. But that grocery store was closed. I guess they don't stay open all night anymore. And I was too damn tired, and my head hurt too damn much, to go searchin' for another one that does stay open all night."
"So what are you going to do now?"
"As soon as we're done eating I'm gonna to the store a couple blocks from here. Aren't they open until nine on weeknights?"
"I think so," A.J. said, while slathering mayonnaise on bread. "Maybe even ten."
Rick glanced up at the clock to see it was twelve minutes after eight. "Either way I've got plenty of time."
"If it's frozen, which it probably will be, just leave it setting on the countertop," A.J. advised. "It won't hurt it to thaw a little bit that way tonight. Then you can put it in the refrigerator before we leave for work in the morning."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Rick agreed, while pulling bowls and plates out of a cabinet.
The no-fuss supper was quickly eaten and the dishes quickly deposited in the dishwasher. Rick wiped off the table and pushed in the chairs, while A.J. started the dishwasher cycling. The tired blond man retrieved his sport coat and keys, and headed for the stairs.
"See you in the morning. Lock the house up when you leave for the store."
"Okay," Rick said before opening the door and whistling for Marlowe.
By the time the dog entered the house, A.J. was turning down his bed and sliding in-between the covers with a weary sigh. He was asleep within a matter of seconds, and never noticed that he didn't hear the Powerwagon's engine roar to life.
Nor did he notice the snores coming from the brother sprawled on the couch in his den.
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The only evidence A.J. could find of a turkey in his house the next morning, was the one sleeping fully clothed on his sofa.
A.J. walked over to the couch and shook his brother's shoulder.
"Rick! Rick, wake up! Where's the turkey?"
For a long minute Rick Simon was suspended between sleep and wakefulness. He could swear A.J. was shaking him and asking him something about a stupid turkey.
"Rick! Rick, where's the turkey?"
Rick groaned and fought with the plush sofa cushions until he was able to push his body to an upright position. He leaned forward and cradled his head in his hands.
"Where's the turkey?"
"Whatta ya' talkin' about, A.J.? What turkey?"
"The turkey you're supposed to bring to Town's tomorrow, that's what turkey!"
"What time'z it?"
Rick scrubbed his hands over his face.
"How can it be seven o'clock? We didn't get in until eight."
A.J.'s hands rested on his hips. He stood over his brother like a teacher stands over an errant pupil.
"Rick, it's seven o'clock in the morning. Seven o'clock on Wednesday morning. As in Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving."
Rick's hands fell to the couch and he looked up at his brother.
"Seven in the morning? But I just sat down for a few seconds. I just wanted to rest a minute, and then I was gonna go to the store."
A.J. walked into the kitchen to start the coffee brewing. "Well, I'd say your minute turned into about ten and half hours worth of sleep."
"Damn!" Rick shot off the couch. "I'm gonna shower and run to the store. I'll meet you in the office by nine."
"Just make sure you're there by then," A.J. said as Rick rushed toward the French doors, headed for the Hole In The Water and a clean change of clothing. "I want to pick up the investigation where we left off last night."
"So do I. I want that two thousand bucks."
"No doubt," A.J. shook his head and hid his smile. "And since you're getting down to the wire here with the turkey, just leave it on the countertop when you get it home, or it'll never be thawed enough to cook in the morning."
"I will!" Rick promised as he disappeared outside.
A.J. looked down at Marlowe and sighed with exasperation.
"What are we going to do with your master, Marlowe? At the rate he's going, we'll be lucky to have hot dogs for our Thanksgiving dinner. I'll tell you something, boy. I swear, I am not going to end up getting myself in hot water just because Rick can't meet his obligations.
Marlowe's bark sounded suspiciously argumentative.
"I'm not, Marlowe" A.J. countered adamantly. "I absolutely am not."
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It was one o'clock in the afternoon before Rick caught up with his brother that day. A.J. was walking out of a pawnshop in downtown San Diego, and was headed toward another. Their client was involved in a bitter divorce, and her soon-to-be former husband had sold, without her permission, a valuable cameo broach and earring set that had belonged to her great grandmother. Even under the threat of a lawsuit, the man wouldn't reveal to his wife where the jewelry had gone. It was now up to the Simon brothers to find it, and the area pawnshops seemed the logical place to start.
"Hey, A.J.!" Rick hailed as he trotted toward his brother. "Wait up!"
turned. "Where have you
Rick was panting heavily when he reached his brother's side.
"To every damn grocery store in the city, that's where I've been."
"Did you get the--"
"And don't you dare ask me if I got the turkey."
"Cause you're not gonna like the answer, that's why not."
"Rick! You're supposed to--"
"A.J., can it. I don't need to hear it right now, okay? My ribs are achin', my fingers are achin', and my headache's back with a vengeance. Why in the hell did you ever let me volunteer to bring the damn turkey in the first place?"
"Believe me, I've been asking myself that question a lot since Sunday."
"Yeah, well, next time I open my mouth and say somethin' that stupid, you have my permission to shove your fist in it."
brightened. "I do? Really?"
"Yeah," Rick snarled, "really."
"Boy, I can hardly wait. And knowing how often you open your mouth and something stupid comes out, it shouldn't be too long before that opportunity comes my way."
"If you only knew how little I'm in the mood for your smart remarks right now, you'd know how wise it would be to restrain that sharp tongue a' yours."
"Okay, I'll restrain it," A.J. agreed, as the brothers walked toward the pawnshop up the block. "But I need to ask just one more thing."
"Don't tell me," Rick sneered, "let me guess." In a very whiny, uncomplimentary imitation of his brother's voice Rick asked, "What are you going to do now, Rick?"
"Yep. That's pretty much what I was going to ask."
shit. And as far as what I'm gonna do
now, I'm gonna be back at Corrigan's Market at six o'clock on the dot. They promised me a semi-truck of turkeys is
due to arrive then. I'm gonna be the
first in line to get one. Do you think
we'll have time to thaw it?"
A.J. shook his head. "I doubt it. But we can start it cooking frozen tonight if we have to. We won't be able to stuff it that way, but if worse comes to worse we can cook the stuffing separately. I can doctor it up a bit, maybe add some chicken broth to it and some other spices, so no one will ever know it wasn't cooked inside the turkey."
"Really? Thanks, A.J. I sure appreciate that."
"As usual, I find myself doing more for what was supposed to your project than I had planned."
Rick put a solicitous arm around his sibling's shoulders.
"I guess that's true, little brother, but you can't deny you're a helluva cook, and just the guy to help me outta this jam."
"You're right, I am just the guy to help you out of this jam. But you'd be wise to take my advice, big brother. Don't let this jam get anymore jammed than it already is. I am not going to do more than I've currently volunteered for."
"I won't, A.J. I promise I won't." Rick looked at his watch. "I'm gonna work with you until five o'clock, then I'm gonna head for Corrigan's. I should be back to your house by six-thirty."
"All right," A.J. said as he opened the door to the pawnshop. "If you get there before I do, run the kitchen sink full of lukewarm water and start the turkey thawing in it."
Grateful for his brother's vast culinary wisdom Rick replied, "Good thinkin', A.J.," right before the two men were greeted by the pawnshop's owner. The issue of the turkey was pushed to the back of their minds as they turned their attention to the job at hand.
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
A successful A.J. Simon arrived home at six forty-five that evening. Although he didn't have the broach set in hand, he knew the name of the woman who had purchased it from a pawnshop on the north side of the city. Whether she'd be willing to turn it over to his client, or sell it back to her, A.J. didn't know. But that wasn't his concern either. On Friday he and Rick would meet with their client, give her the information they had, and allow her to decide how she wanted to proceed. The bottom line was, A.J. had discovered what his client wanted to know, and within the one week time frame that would net him and Rick the hefty bonus.
A.J. let Marlowe out and briefly glanced up the street. There was no sign of the Powerwagon's lights, but that didn't concern the blond man. Rick said the shipment of turkeys wasn't to arrive at Corrigan's until six. Therefore, the earliest he could have made it back home was six-thirty. Rick had probably been held up in traffic, or possibly the trucker hadn't made it to the store on time and he was still waiting.
The detective went upstairs and changed into blue jeans and a red polo shirt, then took advantage of his brother's absence to start preparing the dishes he was to bring to Town's the next day. He glanced up at the clock when he let Marlowe in at seven and briefly wondered where Rick was. He lost track of time for a while as he went about mixing and cooking, then looked at the clock again to see it was seven forty-one.
He better not have stopped off at Ollie's for a beer. If he thinks I'm going to stay up all night helping him cook that stupid turkey, he's got another think coming.
It was as A.J. was placing his two casserole dishes in the oven that he heard the Powerwagon come to a screeching halt in the driveway. Rick's heavy boots pounded against the wooden walkway. Before A.J. had time to cross to the door, it flew open.
"Hurry, A.J.! Get your clothes changed!"
A.J. stared at his disheveled, wild-eyed brother.
Rick grabbed the blond by an arm and propelled him toward the stairs.
"Get changed! Put on your camouflage pants and shirt. I'm gonna run out to the boat and put on mine. And maybe we'd better smear grease paint on our faces, too."
"Rick, whoa!" A.J. stopped their progress in the den. "What are you talking about? What's going on? And what the hell happened to you? Now your other eye's black and you're limping. And most importantly, where's the turkey?"
"Those women, A.J.! They were crazy!"
women are you talking about?"
"The women down at Corrigan's! The women that were waiting for the semi. There musta been hundreds of 'em. Maybe even thousands! They were all waitin' to buy a turkey. I was the first in line, but they shoved me outta the way!"
"Let me get this straight," A.J. stated with skepticism. "A group of housewives shoved you out of the way?"
"Not a group, A.J., a pack. No, make that a rabid mob. They were outta control! Pushin', and kickin', and bitin', and pinchin', and pulling hair, and trampling anyone who got in their way, mainly me. It was awful. I've never seen anything like it! Not even on girl's night at the Roller Derby. They all wanted turkeys."
"And did they get them?"
"Yeah. They all did. Every single one of 'em. But they kept shovin' me to the back of the line, and by the time I got up there all the turkeys were gone. Which is why you gotta get changed."
Rick crossed to A.J.'s gun cabinet, spun the combination lock in the necessary directions, and pulled out two rifles. "We're gonna go bag us a bird, A.J."
"Bag us a bird? Rick, we are not going to enter some poor woman's kitchen with loaded shotguns and demand that she hand over her turkey. For heaven's sake, we'll be arrested for assault with a deadly weapon!"
Rick grabbed a box of ammunition. "That's not what I have in mind. Just go get changed. Hurry!"
Rick pushed his sibling toward the stairs. "A.J., either you meet me at the Powerwagon in five minutes, or I leave without you!"
A.J. studied his brother. He didn't like the crazed look he saw dancing around Rick's eyes, or the fine sheen of perspiration that dotted his forehead. As Rick turned to run out to the boat, A.J. raced up the stairs. He didn't know what insane thing his brother had in mind, but for the moment he'd humor him until he could figure out what Rick's plan was, and how to put a stop to it. Obviously this whole turkey situation had pushed the older man over the edge. Maybe A.J. shouldn't have ridden him so hard about it. Maybe A.J. should have simply gone out and bought the turkey for his brother on Sunday afternoon.
The blond man mentally chastised himself for not being more sympathetic to Rick's plight, as he threw off his jeans and polo shirt, then jumped into his fatigue trousers, and thrust his arms into his camouflage shirt. He was still smearing black grease paint on his face as he grabbed his camouflage cap off his closet shelf and ran from the bedroom at full speed. A.J. shut off the oven as he passed it, and had just enough time to jump in the Powerwagon's cab before Rick recklessly backed the big truck into the street.
A confused Marlowe was left behind to guard the house, and wonder just what all the harried commotion had been about.
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
"Gobble gobble gobble! Gobble gobble! Gobble gobble gobble gobble!"
A.J. cautiously thrust his head out from the bushes and peered into the darkness. So far there was no sign of a security guard, though that didn't do much to ease the detective's mind.
"Gobble gobble! Gobble gobble gobbele gobble!"
"Rick!" A.J. hissed. "Would you keep it down, please. And what the hell are you doing anyway?"
Rick parted the bushes with one hand, and looked straight ahead into the penned enclosure.
"I'm talkin' turkey, A.J. What did ya' think I was doin'?"
"I don't know, and at the moment I'm beyond caring. If we get caught--"
"How many times do I hafta tell ya,' we're not gonna get caught! There's no way there's gonna be anyone workin' here on Thanksgiving eve."
"For your sake, there'd better not be." A.J. glanced over a shoulder before changing his tone to one of reason. "Look, Rick, let's just go, okay? It doesn't matter if we don't have a turkey for tomorrow. No one will care. I've got a ten pound ham at home in the freezer. If we leave now, I'll have plenty of time to cook it."
"No," Rick shook his head. "I promised I'd bring the turkey, and bring the turkey I'm going to do."
A.J. sighed and rolled his eyes. For almost three hours he had sat in the cab of the Powerwagon, in a far dark corner of the parking lot, and tried every argument he could think of to dissuade Rick from his designated course of action. But no matter how much A.J. begged, threatened, cajoled, or shouted, Rick was determined to go through with his plan. Despite the fact A.J.'s common sense told him not to participate in this cockamamie scheme, his loyalty to his brother...and to his mother, left him no choice but to follow Rick when, at eleven p.m., the lanky detective declared it was time. He grabbed the rifles and hopped out of the cab, ignoring A.J.'s final pleas as he led the way to the twelve-foot high iron fence.
A.J. was forced to hold onto the firearms as Rick scaled the fence and dropped to the ground on the other side. He had thrust an arm through the six-inch gap between each bar and demanded, "Give me the guns, A.J."
"Just hand me the rifles and come on."
"Rick, please. . ."
Rick wiggled an insistent hand. "A.J., the rifles."
Rick's tone deepened, and he used the same commanding voice on his brother that he had frequently employed when they were kids.
"A.J. The rifles. Now."
A.J. knew he was going to live to regret passing those rifles through to his brother, but pass he did.
"Now come on," Rick growled. "Get your butt over the fence."
Later, A.J. would wonder why he simply didn't refuse that order and return to the Powerwagon. He had a set of keys for the vehicle. He could have easily driven home and left his brother to fend for himself, or gone and got Town in the hopes the police officer could talk some sense into Rick, but A.J. didn't do either of those things. Again, despite Rick's crazy plan, family loyalty was ingrained too deeply in the blond man for him to leave his sibling at a time when Rick needed him most.
Which is how A.J. now found himself crouched down in ornamental bushes at eleven-thirty at night, outside the Wild Fowl Of North America display at the San Diego Zoo.
"Gobble gobble gobble!" Rick repeated his high-pitched call, meant to entice a turkey closer to the edge of the vast enclosure. "Gobble gobble!"
"Rick, you can't do this! You can't just shoot one of those turkeys!"
Rick peered down the length of his rifle. "Why not?"
"Because...because...because children from all over the world come to see them! How can you kill something that children from all over the world come to see?"
Rick let the rifle drop to his knee as he turned to give his brother an annoyed stare.
"A.J., no kid in his or her right mind comes to a zoo to see the turkeys. Have you ever, in your life, heard a kid beg his parents to take him to see the turkeys?"
"Well...no, I don't suppose I have, but it's not like I spend a lot of time at the zoo eavesdropping on such conversations either."
"Take it from me, little brother, no kid comes here to see the stupid turkeys. They come to see the same things you and I came to see when we were kids. The monkeys, the polar bears, the elephants, the snakes, and the alligators. Let's get real. Next to all them animals, turkeys are pretty damn boring."
"They might be boring," A.J. reluctantly conceded, "but they're on exhibit here at the zoo. Which means if you kill one, we could be arrested."
"Arrested for what?"
"For...for...for killing a turkey, that's what! For taking the life of property that doesn't belong to us. For all we know, turkeys are on the endangered species list."
"A.J., turkeys are not on the endangered species list. That's the bald eagle. And we're not gonna get arrested."
do you know?"
"Because first of all, we ain't gonna get caught. And second of all, we're taxpayers. Which, technically speaking means, we must own at least one of these birds."
we own one of these birds, then how come the zoo locks their gates at
"Beats me," Rick shrugged. "To keep out the riffraff, I suppose."
"Yeah, riffraff like us."
"We're not riffraff! We're honest, hard-working, taxpaying citizens, who just happen to find themselves without a turkey on the night before Thanksgiving. Let's face it, A.J., we're entitled to at least one of these birds."
Rick lifted his rifle and took aim at a big Tom who was clawing the dirt near the fence-line. A.J.'s hand shot out and shoved the rifle down. The sudden movement scared the bird. It ran away with a frightened, "Gobble gobble gobble gobble!"
Rick glared at his brother. "What'd ya' do that for?"
"Rick, you can't do this! You can't kill any of those birds. Even if we don't get caught, the zoo keepers are bound to know one is missing." A.J.'s mind cast about for something to add that might convince his brother to give up and call it a night. "You know how protective the zoo is of their animals. And if you shoot one, you're going to leave blood behind. Then the animal rights activists will be all over the zoo's administration, which means they'll have no choice but to launch a full-fledged investigation into the bird's disappearance."
"So?" Rick questioned without care. "We won't get caught. We're too good at this kinda stuff. Hell, we been doin' it for years."
"Yes, we're good," A.J. acknowledged, "but that means someone else will end up taking the fall for our actions. Some innocent person is going to be blamed for the turkey's demise."
"Oh, for cryin' out loud, A.J., what the hell do you think the zoo officials are gonna do? Go around to every house in San Diego tomorrow and see if the remains of a bazillion turkey dinners can be matched to their missing bird? And then when they keep hittin' dead ends they'll frame some innocent, grandmotherly housewife who just happens to have suspicious turkey grease stains on her apron?" Rick shook his head and scoffed, "Get real, little brother. Get real."
"Besides, there's one hundred and two birds in there. I counted 'em. It's not like any zoo keeper is gonna notice that, tomorrow morning, there's only one hundred and one."
"They might. That is what they get paid to do, you know."
"Yeah right. Like I believe some guy is gettin' paid to walk in here every day and count how many turkeys are in the pen. You're nuts, you know that? If I find out that's where my tax dollars are goin,' I swear I'll be pissed, and so will every other citizen in San Diego when I see to it that fact becomes a feature story on the Channel Three news."
"Look, Rick," A.J. said, when he realized this argument could go on all night, "let's just drop the subject. It doesn't matter whether anyone counts the turkeys or not. It doesn't even really matter whether or not they'll notice one missing. What matters is, we shouldn't be here. What matters is, I shouldn't have given you such a hard time this week about the turkey. It's not a big deal. Honest it isn't, and I apologize for riding you about it the way I did. I don't care whether we have turkey for dinner tomorrow, and neither will Mom, or Town, or Temple. The important thing is, we'll all be together. In the overall scheme of things, that's all that counts." A.J. reached up and gave his brother's shoulder a squeeze. "So come on, now. Let's go home and get some sleep."
"A.J., you sound like Grandpa Walton spoutin' all that family togetherness crap, you know that?" Rick brought his rifle up once more. "Yes, having a turkey is important. As a matter of fact, it's one of the most important things about Thanksgiving."
"Rick, please," A.J. desperately pleaded with a hand wrapped around the rifle's barrel. "Give this a little more thought. Neither one of us even knows how to prepare and cook a wild turkey."
"It'll be a breeze,” Rick dismissed. "You just pluck the feathers, pop it in boiling water for a minute, and then cook it."
gave his brother dubious, sidelong look.
"How do you know that?"
"Because logic tells me that, that's how I know. What more could there be to it? Hell, the pilgrims did it all the time. And boy, I bet Town, and Temple, and Mom, will think this is the best turkey they've ever had. After all, it's gotta taste a hundred percent better than any store bought one. Maybe this will be the start of a tradition. Maybe this is where I’ll come to get my turkey every year."
Rick jerked the rifle out of A.J.'s grasp and rose to his feet.
"Come on. Pick up your rifle and let's go in there."
"In the pen with the birds. They're not gonna come any closer now 'cause you scared that Tom away. We'll have to get in there with them."
"Rick...we can't go in there! We have no idea what other animals might be in there with them, and it's too dark to see."
Rick shook his head in exasperation as he stepped over the four foot high split rail fence.
"There's no other kinda animals in here. Anything that would hurt us would kill the birds. All that's in here is turkeys, little brother. Just turkeys. Now come on. And if you see one that looks like it'll dress out at twenty pounds, shoot first and ask questions later."
"That was a joke," Rick imparted as he weaved his way through a small grove of trees, causing turkeys to scatter in a hail of loose feathers and nervous cries. "You were supposed to laugh."
A.J. sighed and climbed over the fence in pursuit of his brother.
"I'm not laughing at much of anything right now. I..."
A spotlight suddenly lit up the enclosure and blinded the two detectives where they stood.
"And I can guarantee you boys won't be laughing at anything for the remainder of the night either," a deep voice thundered. "Now drop those rifles and take three steps back."
Although the two men couldn't see who was behind the hand-held spotlight, they could easily guess it was an armed security guard. Neither Rick nor A.J. hesitated to do as ordered. Despite Rick's protests that A.J. didn't have anything to do with what was going on, and should be released, both men were handcuffed and hauled to the zoo's main office where they were held until a patrol car could pick them up.
A.J. refused to speak to his brother throughout the ride to the police station. He was dangerously silent, as well, throughout the booking procedure, which included being made to wipe the grease paint from their faces before having their mug shots and fingerprints taken. A.J. found no humor in the fact that the cops had already dubbed them the 'Turkey Bandits.’ That barb only further fueled his red-hot anger.
When he and Rick were finally encased in a cell, A.J. sprawled out on the only cot and closed his eyes, leaving Rick no choice but to sit on the floor.
"A.J.” Rick softly beckoned. "A.J., look...I'm sorry. I really am. I...I shoulda listened to you. I know I shoulda. But it's just that...well, it's just that I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to bring the turkey to Town's like I said I was gonna. And I guess in my enthusiasm to do the right thing, I kinda got carried away."
"Oh, you got carried away all right," A.J. agreed without opening his eyes. "So carried away, that it's now two o'clock on Thanksgiving morning, and we're stuck in a jail cell while every cop in this place - a number of them good friends and acquaintances I might point out, is referring to us as the Turkey Bandits." A.J. turned his head and opened his eyes. "Do you have any idea how long it's going to take us to live this down? Do you have any idea how...how...how absolutely stupid we're going to look when this hits the papers?"
"Well," Rick said sheepishly, "maybe if we're lucky it won't."
"Oh, it will, Rick. Mark my words, it will. Don't think for one minute that some reporter didn't hear the call go over the police scanner when the security guard at the zoo summoned a patrol car to come get us. The same reporter who's probably already paid that security guard fifty bucks to tell all he knows. The same reporter who's lurking inside this police station right now, overhearing our so-called friends laughing their asses off about us, while retelling the story in all its glorious detail. I'm sure we'll make an appropriately humorous Thanksgiving story for all of San Diego to wake up to in a few short hours. More importantly, for our mother to wake up to in a few short hours."
Rick decided a shift of subject was in his best interest.
"Speaking of Mom, I'll call her around seven and see if she'll come bail us out."
A.J. shot up on one elbow. "Don't you dare!"
"Look, Rick, we're going to be in enough hot water with Mom as it is. Call Carlos, or call Jerry, or call Uncle Bud, or even call Surplus Sammy if you have to, but whatever you do, don't call Mom."
"No," A.J. declared again. "Not Mom."
of deference to all he'd put A.J. through, Rick reluctantly agreed, "Okay, okay. Not Mom."
A.J. lay back down and closed his eyes. Rick tried to make further conversation, and tried to offer further apologies, but was steadfastly ignored. He finally rested his head against the hard metal bars and closed his eyes. It took him a long time to fall asleep. When he finally did, he was haunted by troubling dreams of giant turkeys chasing him around A.J.'s living room with loaded guns.
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
It was noon the next day before A.J. and Rick were released from jail. Because of the holiday, Rick had been unable to get a hold of anyone who might post bail for them, and against A.J.'s protests, had finally called Downtown Brown.
A.J. sat stone-faced with his arms crossed over his chest, staring out the passenger side window of Town's car as the black man drove the detectives to his apartment. Rick sat alone in the back like a properly chastised little boy. No matter how hard he tried to draw A.J. into conversation, he received nothing other than the proverbial cold shoulder. Despite Rick's foolish stunt, even Town began to feel sorry for him. The man offered sympathetic glances into the rear view mirror every few seconds, accompanied by helpless little shrugs of his shoulders.
A.J. found no humor whatsoever when, in full-voice, Town announced as he opened the door of his apartment, "Take cover, ladies! I have the notorious Turkey Bandits with me!"
A.J. gave the black detective a scathing look before stepping into the warm, rich smelling kitchen. Temple and Cecilia were awaiting the men's arrival. Just by looking at A.J., Cecilia knew now wasn't the time for admonishments, or hysterical exclamations of the extreme embarrassment she had incurred upon seeing her sons' faces on the morning news, and hearing the ludicrous story that accompanied their photos.
Cecilia did nothing more than walk over and give her youngest a hug.
"Happy Thanksgiving, sweetheart."
A.J. glared at Rick over the top of his mother's head.
"Thanks, Mom. And thanks to Rick, it certainly has been a happy one."
Cecilia wrinkled her nose. "You smell," she said as she got a whiff of wild bird on her son. She reached up and brushed a hand through his blond hair. "And you've got feathers in your hair."
Again A.J.'s hard stare came to rest on his sibling.
wonder where I picked those up from?"
Rick was suddenly very interested in the pattern on Town's ceiling tiles.
"A.J., I brought some clean clothes over here for you and your brother," Cecilia stated as she attempted to diffuse the explosive situation she sensed brewing between her children. "And your toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, and razors as well. Why don't you get cleaned up?"
"Go on, A.J.," Town encouraged. "Feel free to stand under the hot shower as long as you want. You'll find plenty of clean towels and washcloths in the linen closet. Then Rick can take his turn. We won't be eating for another hour or so."
A.J. brushed past the group without saying another word. The slamming of the bathroom door behind A.J. pretty much said it all.
Rick swallowed hard as his mother advanced on him. She stopped in front of him and firmly planted her hands on her hips.
"Richard, what in the world have you gone and done this time?"
come A.J. gets a hug, and all I get is a 'Richard, what in the world have you
gone and done this time?’ "
"Because A.J. needed a hug," Cecilia honestly stated, "and you needed a 'Richard, what in the world have you gone and done this time?’ "
Rick molded his face into a mask of innocence. "How do you know I've gone and done anything?"
"Because I know your brother, and I know he wouldn't be lurking around the San Diego Zoo at eleven o'clock at night trying to shoot a poor, defenseless turkey if you weren't somehow behind it."
Rick spread his arms and pleaded, "Mom..."
Cecilia couldn't help but laugh as she stepped into those arms and gave her son the hug he was waiting for. When she stepped out of his embrace she held a stern finger under his nose.
"Now, mister, start talking. And I expect the whole story. Every last bit of it. And the truth, too. If I'm going to be the laughing stock of the canasta club, and the literary guild, and my garden club, and the Woman's Club, for the next month, I at least want to know why. After all, it's not going to be easy being known as the Turkey Bandits' mother."
"No, I don't guess it is," Rick agreed with a small smile.
"Yeah, Rick," Town urged. "Let's hear the whole story. Straight from the turkey's mouth, so to speak."
"Hold on, Rick," Temple said with a twinkle in her eye as she, too, joined in the spirit of the day. "Let me get my tape recorder. I just might feature you guys on the eleven o’clock news. You know, something like 'Citizens of San Diego, you can rest easy tonight. The ruthless Turkey Bandits have been brought to justice.’ "
"I heard that!" Came a shout through the closed bathroom door. "And I didn't find it funny!"
Everyone muffled their laughter as A.J. slammed things around in the bathroom. When the sound of the running shower filtered out to them, Rick began to speak. He started with Sunday afternoon, when A.J. reminded him he was to provide the Thanksgiving turkey, told of the trouble he endured trying to obtain one throughout the week, and ended with the frustration he felt at the thought of letting his family and friends down when the last turkey had been unloaded from the back of that semi in Corrigan's parking lot and into the arms of a housewife, leaving Rick no choice but to return to A.J.'s empty handed. From there, Rick confessed to having gotten a little out of control, he supposed, and not thinking about what he was doing as he loaded rifles and headed to the zoo, determined to bring a bird of glorious proportions to the Thanksgiving table. As Cecilia and Town had guessed, A.J. had ridden along in an effort to talk some sense into his brother, and to keep him from doing anything rash. Efforts that ultimately failed, and landed A.J. in a jail cell with Rick, despite the older man's efforts to convince, first the zoo's security guard, and then the police, that A.J. had nothing to do with the crime and should be released.
"So that's about it, I guess." Rick gave a hapless shrug of his shoulders. "It was a stupid thing to do. And now A.J.'s madder at me than I ever remember him bein', and to top it off I've let all you guys down ‘cause we're not gonna have a turkey for dinner today."
Cecilia smiled at her forlorn son. "That's one thing you're wrong about, Rick."
"Whatta ya' mean, that's one thing I'm wrong about? I didn't get us a turkey, Mom. I blew it."
Cecilia beckoned Rick to follow her as she crossed the room to the oven. When she opened the door, Rick swore he was viewing the most luscious creature he'd ever laid eyes on. Her skin was smooth as butter, her tan a rich golden brown. Her long legs were slender and shapely, her body enticingly curvaceous, and her neck lean and succulent. Ah, but her breasts...her breasts were especially inviting. They were firm, and full, and looked good enough to eat. Which is exactly what Rick intended to do. In short, the detective could not recall having seen a more beautiful turkey in his lifetime.
Rick's mouth watered, and his stomach emitted an impolite growl, that reminded him the jail breakfasts he and A.J. had been served consisted of cold, under cooked eggs, a slab of ham tougher than shoe leather, and a stale piece of toast. A.J. hadn't eaten more than one bite of anything on his tray, and Rick doubted he'd eaten more than three.
Rick and Cecilia stepped aside so Town could remove the main course from the oven. Rick was dumbfounded.
"But where did this come from? How did you know I was havin' trouble getting a turkey?" His eyes narrowed. "Did A.J. fink on me?"
Cecilia chuckled. "No, dear, your brother didn't fink on you. As a matter of fact, I haven't talked to him all week. Let's just say my mother's sixth sense told me that, where you and A.J. are concerned, it's always wise to be prepared. Which is why I purchased this turkey two weeks ago, and which is also why Temple volunteered to make the vegetable dishes A.J. was to bring."
"And, which is why I bought plenty of wine," Town added from where he and Temple stood by the countertop, carefully maneuvering the steaming turkey from its roasting pan to a large serving platter.
gave a sheepish shrug of his shoulders.
"I guess you guys know me and A.J. pretty good, huh?"
"No, they know you pretty good." A.J. walked around the corner from the bathroom, his hair still damp from his shower. Despite the cold tone he used on his brother, A.J.'s mood had greatly improved now that he'd shaved, brushed his teeth, and no longer smelled like turkey poop. "Or, need I remind you, big brother, that the only reason I was arrested as your accomplice last night was because I went along to keep you out of trouble? However, as seems to be the norm, I ended up getting in trouble right along with you."
A.J. took the gleaming carving knives Town willingly passed to him and advanced on his brother. Rick swallowed hard when a bright, menacing glint lit A.J.'s eyes, and a thin smile spread over his lips. He brought the knives up in front of Rick's face, and rapidly slashed the blades across one another with practiced ease. Rick pivoted and darted for the bathroom. Over his shoulder he shouted, "Hey, Towner, take them knives away from him, will ya? And whatever you do, don't let him have 'em back!"
Rick thought he could detect even A.J.'s laughter coming from the kitchen as he slammed the door, and turned the lock for good measure.
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
Two Months Later
"Hey, get a load of them funny lookin' turkeys, guys!"
"Hey, are you the dudes who got caught tryin' to shoot one of these helpless little birds a few months ago?"
"Hey, mister! That ole' turkey behind you thinks you got a nice butt. Gobble gobble gobble gobble!"
Rick charged the fence, waving his shovel in the air for good measure.
"Go on, you little hoodlums! Get outta here before I climb over this fence and--"
A.J. pulled Rick back before he could jump the fence.
"Rick! Knock it off! We're in enough trouble as it is. What the hell are you trying to do, get us sentenced to two more weeks of cleaning out this damn pen and feeding these damn birds?"
Rick's eyes followed the teenage boys, as they ran away whooping, and hollering, and cat calling over their shoulders.
heard those little jerks! Why I oughtta
go after 'em and show 'em who's--"
A.J. grabbed Rick by the arm and steered him away from the fence.
"Just forget it, Rick. They aren't doing anything you wouldn't have done at their age had you gotten the opportunity."
"I most certainly would not have!"
"Okay, okay. Maybe I would have. But that still doesn't mean they don't deserve to feel the toe of my boot against their smart-aleck behinds."
"Quit worrying about their behinds and concentrate on your own. We need to be out of here by noon so we can go to our real job. The one that pays us money so that we, in turn, can pay the fine Judge Barker so kindly imposed on us for your dumb ass stunt."
Rick wisely made no reply to his brother and did as A.J. bid. He returned to the far edge of the turkey enclosure and scooped up wet, runny excrement with the wide shovel.
One week into the new year, Richard L. Simon and Andrew J. Simon, were commanded to appear in Judge Estelle Barker's courtroom. They were sentenced to two weeks of community service at the San Diego Zoo. In turn, zoo officials thought it appropriate the brothers spend that time tending to the needs of the very turkeys that had caused all the fuss in the first place.
And, as if that wasn't enough, Judge Barker imposed a three thousand dollar fine on the men. A.J. left the courtroom silently fuming, and refused to speak to his brother for the remainder of the day. Cleaning turkey pens was bad enough, but the three thousand dollar fine immediately ate up the bonus they had received from the client for whom A.J. had located the broach set, plus set them back another thousand. Another thousand they didn't readily have at their disposal. Not to mention the bad publicity this little episode was generating for the brothers, and the endless teasing from friends and relatives that had started the day after Thanksgiving, and was still going strong. A.J. swore if he picked up the phone and heard one more gleeful, "Gobble gobble gobble gobble," he'd scream for all he was worth right into the mouthpiece, regardless of who the caller was. And if he took one more message off the answering machine from some so-called friend who left his or her order for next year's turkey, the blond man vowed he'd pitch the damn recorder out the window.
A.J. reached into the big cloth sack that rested against his hip and was secured over his shoulder by a wide strap. He scattered a handful of cracked corn on the ground, and watched as the large multi-colored birds surrounded him. One big Tom pecked at the leg of his jeans while another one pooped on his tennis shoe. A.J. jumped backwards and shook his head in disgust.
Great. Just great. Now the Camaro's going to smell like turkey shit.
Rick turned from scooping a shovel-full of the diarrhea-like excrement into a wheelbarrow.
"The next time you want to talk turkey?"
"I'm not listening."
There was a long, meaningful pause before Rick spoke again.
"I think when we get together next year at Town's place for Thanksgiving. . ."
"I'll just volunteer to bring the cheese and crackers."
As two more turkeys let loose on A.J.'s other tennis shoe the blond grimaced.
"For once in my life, Rick, I can honestly say you've come up with a good idea." A.J. yanked his pant's leg out of a curious turkey's beak with an angry tug. "A very good idea."
The turkey looked up at A.J., and as if in agreement with his words, gave a final, hardy, “Gobble, gobble, gobble.”