Insp. Inspector - The Case of the Conjoined Cousins
Insp. Inspector collaborates with colleagues to cleave conjoined cousins.
Yes, I will give you mouth to mouth but I think this is going to change everything between us.
The Tootsie Roll in the Navy SEALS training swimming pool is a SCUBA Do Do
The Junior College campus was quiet in the summer. The summer session students were trying to cram two years of classes into one year. They were rarely seen outside the classroom. If they passed on their way to another class they weren’t seen. A little breeze was felt and nothing more. The breezes were often felt in the local pharmacy refilling diet pill prescriptions to keep them awake 20 hours a day.
Summer Vets attended in order to keep that government allotment coming. If they did not attend school, they would not receive their VA checks and a fate worse than school could occur: Employment.
Insp. Inspector was enrolled in a continuing education course to maintain his detective license. The course was Underwater Surveillance and Subsurface Fingerprinting. The catalog description read “How to hide your bubbles and pass a fart unnoticed underwater. How to spot day-old snorkel tracks.”
Especially intriguing was the section on “Underwater Ballistics, From the Hawaiian Sling to the Polaris Missile” The second half was devoted to on the job training or under the job training. No one thought that was funny except at the bottom of the swimming pool in the deep end. The under the job training included actual underwater dusting for fingerprints.
The instructor, Dr. Midas Welby, had developed the special dust while working among the natives of Maine. He discovered that the ground flour milled by the old timers was impervious to moisture.
A pygmy strain of wheat is grown in Maine basements. After the wheat is pressed to powder, the old timers troop down to the basement and tell jokes. The dry humor of these strange Maine natives draws all the moisture right out of the flour.
Dr. Welby discovered that the flour clings to any oil spot on any wet surface. He tried to market the dust but there wasn’t any demand for underwater fingerprinting dust. This was the reason Dr. Welby was teaching this class. He persuaded the college to purchase tons of the stuff for his classes.
Inspector wheeled the Modus Operandi into the vacant spot in front of the classroom. He was late again but the handicapped parking space was still empty. “They ought to take down that Handicapped-Only sign. Larry-on-the-crutches graduated last year.”
He grabbed his books. They were still wet from some last minute studying in the pool. Inspector tried to sneak into class but Midas Welby shouted from the front of the room, “Nice to see you, Inspector. I am so full of regret that we started without you. We waited quite a long time and then someone begged me to press on . . . I am truly sorry.”
Inspector said, “You’re probably being sarcastic. You know I can tell. I am an Inspector.”
Dr. Welby said, “Yes. You’ve seen right through me. Your books are dripping all over my floor. So sit down and shut up.”
Dr. Welby looked like Jacque Cousteau, especially underwater in a wet suit, fins, tank, and facemask. Many times people approached him in a restaurant to obtain Monsieur Cousteau’s autograph. They were supremely thrilled if he used the grease pencil.
Midas Welby often quoted Lloyd Bridges in class, “Never dive alone. Always dive with a buddy. (Lloyd Bridges always dived alone.) Don’t chew gum with a regulator in your mouth. Don’t fill your tanks with a bicycle tire pump.”
His favorite quote was “There is no such thing as Rapture of the Deep, at the most, only a 20 minute meaningless relationship with a Blowfish.”
Inspector’s class consisted of police detectives, crime storywriters, Summer Vets, and two newspaper reporters. There were two other students in the front that caught Inspector’s eye. They would toss it back and forth until it took a bad bounce and Inspector snatched it back.
The two students were cousins. They fought constantly during class. The odd thing about these cousins, aside from the fact that they shared a student number, was that they were joined at the stomach.
Inspector asked them, “Are you really Siamese twins?” The two cousins, Jim and Sal Takaparte said, “No, we’re Siamese cousins.”
Dr. Welby was droning though his lecture. Inspector was daydreaming about frisking a mermaid and dusting for prints. He awoke abruptly to Midas Welby screaming at the cousins. “This class has had it with your spats. I’m going to put a stop to it. I would like to strongly recommend that if you want to remain in this class that you take turns talking. Sal, you will speak on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Jim, you shall speak on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Maybe you can join a church choir, share a robe, and sing harmony on Sundays. I don’t care; just keep to your schedules. This is Tuesday, so shut up Sal and let Jim speak today.”
There was immediate applause from the Summer Vets. The amphetamine students wanted to applaud but they were busy taking notes of the applause.
Jim and Sal were both mad but it was Tuesday so Jim said, “I know we always argue but I’d like to side with my cousin on this talking schedule.”
Midas laughed, “How can you side with your cousin when you’re joined at the stomach?” Even the diet pill students laughed.
Inspector remembered the first time the class had seen the cousins do their warm-up exercises at poolside. The class had laughed the same way when the cousins did their sit-ups and kept bumping heads.
The class was still laughing and Jim and Sal were both yelling, Jim at the top of his voice and Sal at just below the top of his voice. Sal was the shy one.
They started shouting in Siamese and four Vietnamese cats leaped through the window and cowered at their feet.
Jim turned and screamed into his cousin’s ear. Sal started grinning. He stared straight ahead and started rocking. Something in Sal had snapped. He continued rocking which, of course, bothered Jim a great deal.
Soon they were both quiet. The weeks flew by with Jim silently taking notes while Sal just grinned and oscillated.
Hurry. Hurry. Step right up ... but I'm not sure that we can hire all of you.
The Case of the Conjoined Cousins
Send in the Anomalies. Don’t bother, they’re here.
The final exam was held in the school pool. A small table with four drinking glasses was placed in the deep end. Inspector dived down and dusted the glasses with Dr. Welby’s waterproof dust. He rose to the surface with the correct four answers.
The answers were Flipper, Davy Jones, and Richard Basehart. The answer to the trick question was a smudged fin print of Shamu, the killer whale.
Inspector passed the final exam with an A. He finished with 20 minutes to spare, enough time for one meaningless relationship.
Jim and Sal Takaparte were late for their exam. It usually took them hours to struggle into their $5,000 custom made wetsuit. Each got half the answers correct so between them they passed.
Inspector received his plastic certificate, Underwater Surveillance and Subsurface Fingerprinting Course. It was waterproof so he thoughtfully placed it in his aquarium.
Two months later he was contemplating the certificate, wondering if anyone was ever going to call on him to lift some underwater prints. Someone knocked at the door. “Come in,” shouted Inspector. Jim and Sal Takaparte walked through the door together, knocking paint off the trim.
He never forgot a face, much less two faces. “Jim and Sal, what can I do for you?”
Jim spoke, while Sal merely swayed, “Inspector, we have a problem and I think we need your help. We tried a psychiatrist but we couldn’t find one with a big enough couch and he wouldn’t give us a group rate.
I think I have early schizophrenia or multiple personalities. Sal here is suffering from catatonia.”
Inspector asked, “How do you know Sal is actually suffering. He looks like he’s having a wonderful time. He just smirks and wobbles.”
“That’s an interesting point,” said Jim, as Sal reeled. “I guess we really don’t know whether he’s suffering or having a good time. He could be enjoying catatonia. He doesn’t say much either way about it. He just smiles. Say, can you read smiles, Inspector?”
“No, I’m afraid I can’t. I do know teeth gritting in five languages and I can read sneers, but only in English and Spanish.”
Jim said, “Sal’s rocking is driving us crazy. I mean it’s making me nervous. When he’s tottering, which is all the time, I have to take a Dramamine or I throw up down his neck.
I thought if I smacked him in the neck he’d snap out of it, but no. He just kept trembling and slinging my vomit all over the room. Thank goodness we have the four Vietnamese cats that can clean it up.”
“Looks like they got most of it,” observed Inspector.
“Yeah,” said Jim. “We can’t take baths anymore, just showers. Last time we took a bath, he rocked all the water out of the tub.”
Jim’s face contorted into a frothing wolf face. He looked like Wilbur the dog-faced circus boy from the 1958 Florida State Fair poster. Jim grabbed his cousin’s neck and started squeezing.
Sal didn’t blink or grunt. He just kept rocking and smiling. The two cousins had been connected for so long that they were also sympathetically united. The harder Jim the dog-faced circus boy squeezed Sal’s neck, the redder his own face became.
Jim grunted, squeezed tighter, and his face turned blue. Jim released Sal’s neck and took a deep breath of relief which, when you’re choking, is almost as good as a deep breath of air.
Jim’s face relaxed. He continued talking, “Of course, I don’t believe what the authorities have said about me. It’s nonsense. The reason I came here was to hire you to find my cousin’s personality”
Inspector didn’t answer immediately. “It’s not going to be easy.”
“Why not?” asked Jim.
“I don’t really know. It’s just something they told us to say in detective school. Let me think about this for a while and I’ll call you.”
Bring me some biscuits and honey and step away from the table.
The Case of the Conjoined Cousins
Do you like your fried chicken battered or just roughed up a little?
Inspector was ruminating over the case when Owen, the little feller, came in with supper. He had a pail of chicken. The chicken came from Sergeant Sand’s Chicken Finger Placewhere the slogan is “How bout it, give us a second chance”.
Inspector bit into an unidentifiable chicken piece. “Owen, this chicken’s not done.”
Owen cowered and whimpered, “I only had two dollars so I went for the Special Battered and Raw Chicken. I saved us a dollar. I’ll cook it. Just don’t kick me, please.”
“Okay, I won’t kick you.” as he slapped Owen on the face. “I can’t eat this chicken even if you cook it. This chicken has bruises all over it.”
“I told you. That’s part of the Special,” said Owen. “Battered and Raw.”
Inspector tossed the chicken into the cardboard pail. “I can’t eat now. I’ve lost my appetite between you, the abused chicken, and those conjoined cousins.”
He walked to his library shelf and stood thinking. Little Owen jumped into the pail of chicken and started eating. “Chicken abuse doesn’t bother me. I never liked crispy chicken anyway.”
Inspector pondered the two books on the shelf. One was a pictorial essay on How to Photograph Nude Models from four Blocks Away. It was eight years over due at the real library.
The other book was called How to Recognize Clues and How to Find This Book Again If You Misplace It. Inspector scanned the index and found Siamese Cousins, page 342.
Page 342 displayed eight pictures of differently joined Siamese relatives. The bottom frame showed two well developed women joined at the breasts. The caption said they were never separated because they couldn’t agree on who should get the nipples.
Another set of California twins had undergone a trial separation. Three months later, they were reconciled and rejoined at the feet. This was mentioned in the footnotes.
There was other frivolous research completed by a group of government granted scientists. The scientists were blackmailing a generous Senator who had once made a generous Siamese woman pregnant during the 1965 Siamese War. They were enjoying the generous government study grant from the generous guilty Senator.
On page 343, there was a photo of the only known example of Siamese Triplets. There was a crushed Chihuahua, dead at their feet. They had apparently tried to quell the yapping and stepped on the scrappy pup once, which is actually six times (one for each foot). Pobre Cachorro, Poor Puppy; it was a classic example of barking up the wrong Three.
Inspector closed the book. “Owen, get me Doctor Mal Practice on the phone and find out if he can still practice in Florida.”
Mal practiced in Alaska. Inspector took the phone. “Dr. Practice. How goes it? How are you doing in Alaska?”
“I'm still performing uh … I’m still into family planning.
Inspector said, “I’ve got a favor to ask. We have a set of Siamese Cousins down here that have to be split. I haven’t told them yet; I don’t want to upset them. I was hoping you could fly down and do the operation?”
“Okay. I’ll be there tomorrow.”
Inspector dialed Jim’s number. ”Jim, I’d like for you and your cousin to meet here at my office tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock. No breakfast for either one of you. We’re going to separate you from your cousin tomorrow.”
Jim gasped, “Is that necessary?”
“I think it is,” said Inspector. “You have to find yourself. Your cousin has to find himself. It’s impossible the way it is now. If you were to look for yourself, you would find your cousin. I think this is the first step if you want to get mentally correct.”
Jim asked, “Is that a medical term, mentally correct?”
“No. It’s just something that Dr. Mal Practice said he learned in a mental health weekend course.”
“Who is this Dr. Practice jerk?” asked Jim.
“Never mind. Just be here at 8:00 AM”
Jim sounded nauseous. “I can’t stand this rocking much longer.” Jim turned into the dog-faced circus boy again because Inspector could hear snarling and growling in the phone.
He put the conversation on the speakerphone and listened to the canine wails. “Owen, come here and listen to this. There’s something so surreal about reproduced canine vibrations transmitted over thousands of miles of telephone fiber-optic cables, pushed through a central processing station, relayed from a satellite, and sent to this very receiver in this particular office. It’s hard to believe that this cutting edge art form only costs 45 bucks a month.”
Gradually the barking mutated to a civilized hominid. Jim said, “We’ll be there in the morning with both stomachs empty.
This is the first liposuction I have ever performed on a gerbil.
The Case of the Conjoined Cousins
Dr. Mal Practice operates
The cousins were there on time. Owen helped scrub, dress and prep them for the operation. Dr. Practice was late. He came bounding in at 9:00 and noticed that the office was tastefully decorated with white sheets on the wall to put him in the right mood.
Mal asked, “Do you have anything for a burn on the arm? I seemed to have picked up a nasty one downstairs. I was consulting with the mechanic downstairs. Those Chevy mufflers sure get hot fast. I think we found the trouble with the transmission though. Have I got time to get this grease off before we start?
I’ll be right back. I saw some waterless hand cream in the garage. Back in a minute.”
The Takaparte cousins were draped on Inspector’s desk. Papers and bills were lying on the floor. Owen was administering anesthesia that was connected to a long hose, which ran downstairs to the exhaust pipe of a 1955 Chevy running on four cylinders.
Mal asked, “Okay. Where’s the split?” Patients are often referred to by their scheduled operation name such as the earwax in 105. In this case, Dr Practice is referring to the ghost surgeon who actually will perform the operation and split the fee with the assigned surgeon.
Owen knew what he meant. “There is no assistant surgeon. You’re it.”
The cousins were under the full anesthetic effect of the 1955 muffler. With the amazing subconscious will to survive that all humans possess, the fully unconscious cousins tried to get off the table and walk away from the Alaskan family planner. The tightly wrapped lamp cord restrained them. Like two zombie lovers, they settled back onto the desk blotter and didn’t move again.
Dr. Practice opened his Swiss Army knife with his teeth. “In my black bag over there, you’ll find a folded paper pattern of the body’s major organs. Would you bring it here? Bring some pins with you too.”
Inspector handed the pattern to the doctor. “Here it is. Size ten.”
“Perfect. Now I’ll just pin it on and we can get started with the blade here,” said Dr Practice.
Owen and Inspector watched the doctor map out the exact location of the navel. “Now for the really important question before I start cutting. Who gets the belly button? There’s only one.”
“Give it to Sal, said Inspector. He doesn’t have a personality so at least he should have a navel. Sal’s the one on the left. The Pro Choice doctor’s strokes were swift and sure.
Owen was closing each individual cousin. There were three or four pints of blood on the floor but the patients seemed to have come through all right.
Sal was carried over to the couch and Jim was left on the desk. Inspector looked around the room. The doctor was gone. Just then an ambulance went by. Inspector said, “He probably heard the siren blocks away and thought it was for him. He’s still skittish around sirens because of all the family planning gone bad arrests.”
Jim was starting to recover, coughing out the last of the 87 octane induced anesthesia. With a snarling drooling grin, he sprang from the desk and crawled toward the aquarium. He ate three goldfish.
He stood up to spit out three little fish spines. His face relaxed. “Inspector. It’s fantastic. I’m separate. My cousin’s separate.”
Inspector looked at Sal on the couch. He was smiling and rocking. “Yeah,” said inspector. “You both are separate but apparently not quite equal.”
“What’s wrong with that?” asked Jim. “The important thing is to be free. Who cares if we’re equal? My cousin sure doesn't care. Look at him. You can’t tell whether he’s normal or still under anesthesia.”
Sal was rocking more efficiently and consistently. He had never been able to rock as well while he was still attached to his cousin.
“I'll have to agree with you,” said Inspector. “There doesn’t seem to be much hope for Sal. But what about you? What are you going to do? You think you might see that psychiatrist now that you’re on your own?”
“No.” snarled Jim, with a hint of bark in his voice. “We, I mean, I have to work this out ourselves. This multiple personality thing will pass.”
“Jim, I hate to bring this up,” said Inspector, “but there are times when you morph into a mean mutt.”
“I know, I know.” snapped Jim. “I’ll get by. I’m just worried about trying to flush a fire hydrant.
Inspector looked at Jim, the dog faced circus boy and then studied rocking Sal on the couch. He realized, “I’m not going to get paid for any of this.”
Sal was on the couch enjoying his new freedom, rocking to an inner electronic beat which was either a reaction of his sympathetic muscle to his parasympathetic muscle or possibly the beat of a 4/4 Motown tune he had once heard.
Inspector said, “This is ridiculous. Jim, take your rocking cousin, your dog faced personality, and get out of my office.”
Jim’s face twisted up. He crawled to Sal on the couch and grabbed his swaying cousin. He carried him in his mouth toward the door. Sal was still swinging while Jim had him by the back of the neck in his strong jaws. Sal scratched on the door for Jim.
Owen opened the door and they were gone. Jim stopped to wet the door jamb before they left.
Inspector shook his head. “Why do I get mixed up with cousins that look like twins all the time?”
Owen answered, “That’s easy. They usually look alike."
Owen ducked. Inspector’s shoe missed him. “I’m too tired for a second kick,” said Inspector. “Go get us some lunch."
Inspector looked at the red carpet from the operation. “We can clean this blood up later. Once it coagulates, it will lift right off the rug.”
5 Hushpuppies ISO a cold cup of Cole Slaw
The Case of the Conjoined Cousins
An hour later, Owen walked in with a three-dollar pail of chicken, cooked and this time coddled. Owen’s little mind had forgotten the day’s events. He looked down at the bloody carpet. “Oh. I see you’ve already eaten. That raw chicken’s not so bad after all, is it?”
Owen looked again at the four pints of dried blood on the floor. “Looks like you got a hold of a real fresh bird.”
“Owen, you’re as close as you’ve ever been to knowing what is really going on.”
This pleased Owen. He was sitting in the middle of a large paper cup of coleslaw, eating his way to the cup rim.
A month later Owen was typing invoices on his toy ‘Danny Digit’ typewriter. “You know, we keep sending bills to those two Takaparte boys but we haven’t received any money? What happened to them?"
Inspector said, “Jim is working at a low budget television station. He does interviews with himself. He’s developed seven new personalities since he left here.”
“What about Sal?” asked Owen.
“He’s working for the Energy Commission. It’s all pretty hush.”
Owen quibbled, “Wouldn’t that be ‘hush, hush’? Two hushes? I really think it should be said with two ‘hushes’.”
“Owen, I’m sorry but you’re wrong again. If Sal and Jim were still connected it would be ‘hush, hush’. Since they have been separated it’s only proper to say ‘hush’ just once. So for once, just hush.”
“So what does Sal do for the Energy Commission?”
Inspector said, “He works at a secret Arizona installation, producing energy for three neighboring states. He’s hooked up with a shoulder harness, connected to pumps. Those pumps run electric generators.
Owen’s mind was running with the concept. “If this country can produce enough rocking people, we can literally bring the oil producing nations to their knees.”
“When you say ‘literally bring the oil producing nations to their knees’, you’re literally wrong. Nations don’t have knees; only humans have knees. Nothing else has knees.”
Owen smiled. He had a reply. He knew he would be kicked under the couch but he spoke up anyway, “Florida Cypress Trees have knees. The roots that stick up around the tree are called knees. So it looks like I Cypress stumped you again.”
Owen, the little feller, was still laughing as he slid across the dried blood and under the couch.