“Harry. We got a dead battery. Get the crime scene tape. And call the coroner.”
LAST FALL MRS. R AND I were in Seattle on our annual retirement trip to the great northwest. Mrs R. grew up in Seattle. She graduated from West Seattle High and later from the University of Washington, these days known affectionately as U Dub.
On our last day we ate a terrific crab lunch at Cutters, an outstanding seafood restaurant near Pike Place Market. Afterwards we drove out of the Public Parking Garage on Western and had gone less than two blocks when our rental car stalled on Pine Street. I tried to get it going, but no luck. The battery was dead. I phoned in for a tow truck.
Almost immediately we were blocking traffic badly. Horns were honking, and people were yelling at us. Suddenly two patrol cars with sirens blaring pulled up. A cop got out of one and came over to my side. “What’s up, mister?”
“Dead battery. I called for help.”
“Sounds like the battery is beyond help mister.” Then he yelled at the cop in the other car. “Harry. We got a dead battery. Get the crime scene tape. And call the coroner.”
“The what?” I said. Then I started to get out of the car.
“Stop right there!” the cop said. “We don’t want any evidence disturbed.”
“Evidence? What evidence? All I got is a dead battery.”
Just then another car pulled up. It was a red Porsche 928 with no police markings but it had one of those magnetic red flashing police lights on the roof. A stocky guy a little over six feet tall got out. He was wearing a plain tan suit badly in need of pressing that might have been fashionable about twenty-five years ago. “What have we got here Hennesey?” he said to the uniformed cop.
“Oh, hi, Beau. It’s a dead battery.”
The plain clothes guy couldn’t believe his ears. “A what? I’m in homicide. Since when did I get busted down to traffic?”
“Captain Powell said to call you, Beau.”
THE PLAIN CLOTHES GUY whipped out his cell phone and punched in two numbers. “Get me Captain Powell!” he screamed. “Now!” We could hear everything because he had the phone on speaker.“Yes, Detective Beaumont?”
“Captain Powell, I’m in homicide. Why am I working a traffic jam?”
“Well Detective Beaumont, the man reported he had a dead battery. Unless the battery killed itself, it sounds like automotive homicide to me.”
The plain clothes guy thought a bit. Finally he said, “I never thought of it that way, Captain Powell. I guess you’re right. I’m on the case.” Then he hung up and came over to me. “What’s your name?”
“Dave Riley. We’re visiting from California.”
“I’m Detective Beaumont. J.P. Beaumont. My friends call me Beau.”
“Pleased to meet you, Beau.”
“I said my friends call me Beau,” he snarled. “You’re not my friend. And who is this gorgeous lady?”
“I’m Mrs. R..”
“Well honey, you can call me Beau.”
“Well you can’t call me honey, detective,” she snapped.
“Whoa, Riley, you got a live one here!”
“Did I hear you talking to Captain Powell?” Mrs. R. said.
“Why yes I did.”
“You should know he was best man at our wedding.”
“Oh, oh,” Beaumont said. “Does that mean I’m in deep yogurt?”
“One more ‘honey’ and you will be.”
JUST THEN THE TEENAGE PARKING ATTENDANT from the garage ran up. “Maybe he had something to do with it,” I said.
Beaumont looked around. “Jimmy? Naw, not him. He’s my nephew.”
“Hey Uncle Beau, thanks again for letting me take my girl to the prom in your Porsche.”
“Jimmy, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Yeah, Jimmy. When you left after the prom you put the red police magnetic flasher on the car top and turned it on. The principal freaked out. He closed the parking lot gate and put all of West Seattle High on lockdown until four a.m. The parents were really steamed.”
“Sorry, Uncle Beau. I won’t do that again.”
“Detective can I get out?” I said. “My legs are getting really cramped in here.”
“Sure, get out.”
I started to but when I did, my left foot slid on some oil and I went down flat, banging my head on the side of the car as I did. I went out like a light. For a while everything was fuzzy. I could hear people talking but I didn’t know what they were saying. Eventually I came to, but I wasn’t in Seattle, I was in my driveway. Mrs. R. was there along with my neighbor Arnie and two paramedics. “What happened?” I mumbled.
“You slipped off the stepladder. Arnie called 9-1-1. Bo and Hennesey, the two paramedics, revived you. While you were out you must have known Bo was here because you said ‘Bo’ several times.”
“I said ‘Beau’?”
“No you said ‘Bo.’”
“That’s what I said, ‘Beau.’”
“No, you said Bo.”
“I said ‘Beau’”
“You didn’t say ‘Beau.’ You said ‘Bo.’”
Later that evening she asked, “Have you been reading some more J.P. Beaumont detective stories?”
“Why yes. How did you know?”
“Just a wild guess.”
With grateful appreciation to J.A. Jance whose engaging J.P. Beaumont mysteries have kept me up well past midnight far too many times.