|A murder mystery
in three acts.
The Mystery Of How Betty Bob Bitternut’s Head
Got Separated From Her Body
Details of the murder were sketchy. The body, badly decomposed and found at the side of a little used dirt road just outside of town offered little in the way of identification other than gender. The victim, a woman, slightly more than middle age, fully dressed, was missing its head. Rather an important body part, according to Captain Jackson of the Greater Armpit, Arkansas metro police. The medical examiner agreed and decided that cause of death was, in fact, due to the loss of the victim’s head. Other causes were investigated, toxicology and the like, but no, the loss of the head seemed to be the only factor involved here.
“Once you go missing your head, it pretty much kills you,” he said, sagely, to the newspaper reporter who nodded thoughtfully as he carefully avoided looking at the body.
“This is going to be a tough case, men,” said the police Captain, “We got a body and no real identification, so let’s get out there and try to find that head. Any questions?”
“Ah, maybe just one, Cap. Where do you suggest we start?” asked a young patrolman, his hand in the air, waving like a schoolboy.
“How the hell do I know, Smitherby?” returned the captain. “Try looking where we found the body. Do I have to do all your thinking for you?”
“You want we should start looking for it today?” cut in Weatherblatt, the senior officer. “I got some banking to do for, ah, the department, and we got that parade that starts at noon. The patrol car needs washing too, you know, for the parade, and it sure could use an oil change before we get too many more miles on it, brakes too. Head isn’t going anywhere, wherever it is.”
The Captain nodded. “So you’re saying we really don’t have the time today, is that what you’re saying, Bill?”
“That’s pretty much it, Joe.”
“Well, can’t argue with that. First thing Monday then, men. Don’t want to screw up the weekend for you guys. Now to the priorities. Who brought the doughnuts?”
“Sir?” came the small voice from the back row. Everyone moaned, knowing what was coming.
“What is it, Applecracker?” sighed the Captain.
“Well sir, I was just wondering if anyone had bothered to check fingerprints from the victim. Sometimes identification can be determined…”
“Monday, Applecracker, I said we’d get to it on Monday! You and your high falutin’ Police Academy thinking are going to mess up a good fishing weekend for the rest of us with your fingerprintin’ and such. Monday is good enough, like we said. Sheesh!”
“Sorry sir, just trying to help.”
“Well, don’t!” said the Captain, shaking his head in bewilderment.
“I don’t fish, anyway,” mumbled Applecracker, quietly.
“I heard that!” bellowed the Captain, banging the lectern with a fist, rattling his clipboard. “You’d best be getting your priorities right, Applecracker! A man that don’t fish is not a man that makes a good cop!”
“That’s for sure! True, true! Words of wisdom!” chimed in the others, as the Captain beamed.
“Who the hell hired this guy anyway?” demanded the Captain.
“He’s the Mayor’s son, sir. You hired him,” the lieutenant reminded him.
“And we do love the Mayor, don’t we boys?” said the Captain with a lecherous sneer, his hips making obscene movements. “Welcome to the force, young man!”
“I’ve been here three years,” said Applecracker, throwing up his hands.
“How is Her Honor anyway?”
“Better, since she got the injunction against you all for the harassment.”
The mayor’s place on the ballot was assured after winning the bottom optional wet t-shirt contest at the “Get Drunk Here” tap four years ago. The police department decided that around the clock protective surveillance for the Mayor’s person was just what was called for. The Mayor had disagreed, following the first week of finding three officers peering into her bedroom window at any given time of the day or night. She said she didn’t mind the officers doing their duty, but the calls of; “Take it off Momma!” had gotten on her nerves, along with having to clean up the beer bottles and cigarette butts every morning.
“Well, unless your Momma needs protecting, we’ll just get us some of those doughnuts and coffee before we hit the streets. Be careful of them terrorists, boys, you never know when they’ll show up and try to cart off the Mayor.”
“What now, Smitherby? You’re starting to get on my nerves, you know that?”
“Sorry sir, it’s about that head. What exactly should we be looking for do you think?”
“Now that is a fine question, Smitherby, since almost none of us has actually ever seen a severed head before. The way I see it is this; a head, plain and simple, just like you’d see on top of almost everybody’s shoulders, but with a rotting stump on the bottom end where the body should go. I’d say that if you should come across such a thing, and the rotting stump is on the top where the hair would normally be found, try turning it upside down. That should clear up the problem. Any questions concerning identification of a severed head? Yes, Weatherblatt?”
“What if, and I’m just throwing out possibilities here, what if the stump isn’t rotting?”
“You mean just dripping fresh blood, like that?”
“Yah, something like that.”
“Then it may not necessarily be Betty Bitternut’s head. We could be facing a serial killer. We could be famous throughout the state. Serial killers make a town famous. Keep a lookout for that!”
“Why did you say it was Betty Bitternut’s head we were looking for, and why didn’t you tell us that before?” asked Smitherby. “And why aren’t we questioning her
husband, Bo Bob Bitternut? You know he’s the meanest sumbitch in town. If it’s his wife, well, I think I can go on record here by saying he’d be the one to question first.
“Smitherby, I never did say for certain that it was Betty Bitternut’s body. If I knew that for sure, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we? It’s true that the tattoo on the left arm of the victim says “Betty”, and there’s flame above and below the word, and yes, I was there when she got that same kind of tattoo the night we graduated high school, but that isn’t positive identification now, is it? And as for her husband Bo Bob, the reason we aren’t questioning him is for the very reason you just pointed out. Bo Bob Bitternut is in fact the meanest sumbitch in town, and we don’t want to go around pissing off that kind of guy by idly accusing him of lopping off his wife’s head before we actually have a positive ID of the body. Do we, Smitherby? It behooves us then to try to find that head, doesn’t it gentlemen?”
“That makes certain sense, Captain,” returned Smitherby, his beaten down look satisfying the Captain’s sense of pride in some perverse way.
“Monday, though. We’ll get to it Monday.” The Captain glared at Patrolman Applecracker. “Monday!” he said again.
On the Street
“Say Bill, since the parade passes ol’ Bo Bob Bitternut’s place, why not stop and have a short confab with him? You know, just to see how he and his wife are getting on.”
“Vern, you know the parade don’t go anywhere near Bitternut’s place, and besides, we got to get the patrol car over to the Taco Palace/Oil Dump for the oil change and brake job after we pass the bank. You heard the Captain, Applecracker, Monday, and not a day sooner. You know you’re going to piss off the Captain if you keep pushing.”
“Just a thought. Didn’t mean nothin’ by it,” muttered Applecracker, bitterly. “Not good police work, waiting around to start an investigation, that’s all I’m saying.”
“HA!” exclaimed Weatherblatt, “Speak of the devil! There’s ol’ Bo Bob now, walking down the sidewalk just as plain and happy as a meadowlark. In fact, I do believe he’s skipping! Damndest thing I ever saw. He don’t skip even when he’s drunk on his ass. Damndest thing! And look, he’s got a daisy in his buttonhole! Hmmm.”
Weatherblatt reached over and honked the patrol car horn, waving to Bo Bob Bitternut who smiled broadly as his arm shot out in a friendly return wave.
“There’s our opportunity, Bill! Bo Bob himself, and acting all strange like!” exclaimed Vern as he reached for the door handle of the Yugo, which promptly came off in his hand for the second time that morning.
“You see? That’s what happens when you get too enthusiastic and try to do things you were told not to do! What the hell do you not understand about Monday?”
“But Bill…!” pleaded Applecracker, struggling to replace the door handle, with little success.
“Don’t you “but Bill” me, Applecracker! If your mother could hear you disobeying a direct order… Oooooh, the Mayor. Madam Mayor. Momma Mayor. Oh baby, baby,” muttered the senior patrolman, shuddering slightly, his face screwed up tight, looking the way he did at the nudie bar on Saturday nights.
“That’s my mother you’re talking about Weatherblatt!” shouted Applecracker, struggling to extract his nightstick from his utility belt.
“Oh ease up, Vern, everybody knows about your mother’s methods of appointing people to city posts.”
“That’s not true! It’s rumor, and nothing more! Bo Bob is getting away!”
“Monday! Damn, boy! And put that nightstick away, you’re going to hurt somebody with it.”
Bo Bob Bitternut suddenly stopped skipping down the street, turned, and approached the police cruiser.
“Get that nightstick back out!” exclaimed the senior officer, sweating profusely as Bo Bob neared the battered Yugo. “Call for backup!”
“Like that’s going to do any good, we got the only cruiser that runs. The Pinto blew up two days ago!” exclaimed Vern, struggling once again for the black stick.
“Top of the freaking morning, officers!” shouted Bo Bob, still ten feet away from the car, both hands waving a friendly greeting.
“He’s on drugs, Vern,” warned Weatherblatt, quietly, from the side of his mouth. “Watch him close. That sumbitch ain’t been that friendly since the third grade.”
“Say boys, you guys haven’t seen the rest of my wife anywhere have you?” asked Bo Bob, in a friendly, offhand kind of way. He lit a cigarette, blowing the smoke through the cruiser’s open window.
“Well, maybe we have, and maybe we haven’t, Bo Bob,” hedged Weatherblatt warily. “You saying you’re missing part of her?” Whispering to Applecracker, “Now you got me doing it,”
“Hell yah I’m missing part of her. Have been for three weeks now, Bill. Maybe I should have called you about it. Didn’t think of that till just now.”
“What part are you missing?” asked Applecracker, grinning, as if he knew nothing about it.
“ Monday, damn it!” Weatherblatt growled to Vern, “You’re just determined to screw up this weekend, aren’t you?”
“Missing all but her head, and if you know Betty Bob at all, you’ll know that that’s quite a damn bit to be missing!” spluttered Bo Bob with a barely held laugh. “Three hundred and thirty pounds of prime womanhood there! Yup, quite a bit to be missing, if I do say so!”
“We got that parade in fifteen minutes!” hissed Weatherblatt, desperately trying to avoid questioning the suspect any further.
“Now if, and I ain’t saying we do, but if we knew where the rest of the body was, could you tell us where the remaining cranial structure may be located?” inquired Vern.
“The what? Who the hell is this putz, Bill?”
“The Mayor’s son,” moaned Weatherblatt, his head in his hands, bemoaning his now surely lost weekend, not to mention the chewing out they were going to get from the Captain for questioning Bo Bob before Monday in the first place.
“Mayor’s son, eh? Dang fine woman, the Mayor. Damn fine piece of…”
“THAT’S MY MOTHER, YOU UNCOUTH SUMBITCH!!” screamed Applecracker, his face turning a deep red as he slammed his shoulder against the car door repeatedly in a vain effort to extract his five foot three inch frame from the confines of the cruiser.
“The boy does get worked up, don’t he? Just like his daddy does,” commented Bo Bob. “Welcome to town boy!”
“My daddy’s dead, killed in the Viet Nam war,” said Vern, removing his hat, placing it over his heart in respect. “And I’ve lived in “Armpit” all my life, you moron. Now, where is Betty Bob’s head?”
“Viet Nam, eh? Is that what she told you?” snickered Bo Bob, banging on the car roof. Weatherblatt stifled a laugh as well at the explanation of Vern’s father’s whereabouts. “War was over by ’75. What year were you born, boy, ‘79? Damn long pregnancy, I’d say. Moron, eh? Kick your behind and never raise a sweat, putz.”
“When I was born has nothing to do with the question at hand,” Vern spluttered, “Where is Betty Bob’s head?”
“Head’s back at the house, next to the chicken coop where she left it,” said Bo Bob, frowning now, his good humor gone under the intense questioning of the young officer.
“Would you mind too awfully much if we came by after the parade to take a look at it?” asked Applecracker, suitably cowed by the suspect.
“Don’t mind at all, Officer Applebutt, you come over any time you like, it ain’t going anywhere. Bring the Mayor,” he added, snickering again.
“Not bringing the Mayor,” mumbled Applecracker as he slid the gear selector into first gear, and eased off the clutch. The mighty 67 horsepower Yugo engine balked and spluttered, blue smoke exploding from the tailpipe as the machine gained what little speed was left in it.
After the high school float, the third grade comb and tissue paper marching band, and the police cruiser had passed by the reviewing stand for the third time, the annual “My Armpit, My Home” parade was declared a rousing success. Disaster was only narrowly averted when the marching band, who had fallen down and gotten a boo-boo on her knee, was nearly run over by the police cruiser. Judging the parade were the Mayor, resplendent in her hot pink mini-skirt, and yellow halter top, the Captain, who paid more attention to the Mayor as she jumped up and down in glee while the parade passed than he did to the parade, and both of the “Armpit Consolidated Schools” school teachers, who gave a unanimous grade of A+ to the Mayor for her contribution to physical education appreciation.
“Now can we go to Bo Bob Bitternut’s place and investigate that head?” asked Vern Applecracker after writing a citation to himself for noise abatement due to honking the car horn and sounding the siren during the parade.
Weatherblatt leaned close to the patrolman and stuck a finger out, shaking it as he spoke, “Oil change, brake job, and wash, since we didn’t get to finish those tasks due to your insistence that we question a probable innocent person before the parade! Monday! Your daddy was right, you are a putz, Applecracker”
“That’s it, I’m telling my Mom!”
“Seeing the Mayor? Oooooh, the Mayor! Looked mighty good on the reviewing stand today, boy. Sure, let’s go see her up close.”
“I know when I’m beat,” sighed Vern, “Monday it is.”
Monday. Police crew meeting.
“First order of business; jay-walking,” said the Captain. “The citizens want us to put a stop to it! They’re screaming for it.”
“It’s the citizens doing it,” observed Smitherby.
The Captain hesitated while he considered the problem and then began nodding his head gravely.
“Smitherby, when you’re right, you’re right, no doubt about it. We’ll have to study this problem before we start jailing the general populace for crimes against themselves. Come to think of it, it was old lady Nuttblatz, drunk on her ass, doing all the complaining, and she was standing in the middle of the street while she was screaming at me during the parade. As you were, men. Is there anything important we should be doing today? If not, I have an important meeting with the Mayor…”
“Head?” asked Smitherby, his hand in the air.
“How dare you intimate that sort of vile thing about the Mayor!” exclaimed the Captain, his face flushing.
“We have a body with no head. We were supposed to look for it today,” reminded Applecracker.
“Oh, that! Yes, men, let’s look into that. To recap, we have a body that bears a slight resemblance to Betty Bob Bitternut, but missing that all-important identifier, the head. Let’s start on the north end of town and search every square foot of ground until we find it. That’s all!”
“Great plan, Captain!” exclaimed Weatherblatt. “We’ll find it for sure.”
‘It’s next to the chicken coop on Bo Bob Bitternut’s place, right where she left it. On the south end of town,” said Vern.
“Boy thinks he’s one of those sidekicks! How do you know where the missing head is? Who the hell is this guy anyway? Who hired you, boy?”
“He’s the Mayor’s son, you hired him Joe,” said Weatherblatt.
“Well, why didn’t someone say so? Welcome to the force, son!” exclaimed the Captain darting from behind the lectern, his hand out.
“Thank you Captain,” moaned Vern, shaking the Captain’s proffered hand. “Anyway, Bo Bob told us where the head was before the parade on Friday. Said we could come over any time to see it.”
“You questioned Bo Bob Bitternut on Friday after I distinctly told you we’d get to it on Monday, is what I’m hearing, Applecracker?”
“He approached us and volunteered the information, sir,” said Vern.
“You’re on report, Applecracker!” shouted the Captain. “You could have ruined the entire weekend of fishing with that sort of irresponsible questioning. You could have gotten your bottom kicked besides. Bo Bob is the meanest sumbitch in town!”
“Yah, he threatened to do that,” muttered Applecracker.
“Then he’s on report too! Ten days suspension for threatening to kick a police officer’s bottom!” shouted the Captain, “You hear that Bitternut? Ten days! Put your badge on the table before you leave!”
“Yes sir,” said Bo Bob from the back of the room. “Are you sure you can put the Chief of Police on report, Joe?”
“Well, no. But I’m pretty sure I can yell at you for threatening a Police Officer.”
“Oh sure, you can do that. It’s in the rule book,” agreed Bo Bob. “Well men, you heard the Captain. Let’s break into groups of four and start on the north end of town looking for that head. Be diligent, men. The identification of this victim is paramount to our investigation.”
“There are only four of us on the force,” noted Smitherby.
“Then that makes it easier. We won’t be loosing people again like we did last time. Oh, and one more thing, men, could some of you sort of keep a look out for my wife Betty Bob’s body? Seems we’ve misplaced that. ”
“We have an extra one if you’d like to use it,” offered Weatherblatt, “It’s in none too great of a shape, but you’re welcome to it, if it’ll help.”
Bo Bob brightened up considerably at the offer. “Where you keeping this spare?”
“Up at “Jim Bob’s Fine Used Cars and Meats”. It’s in his freezer.”
“That’s swell. I’ll go on over and see if it’s something we can use. I sure would like to get Betty Bob back together again. Can’t kill chickens without her, and if I can’t get the chickens killed I can’t make any money. It is a chicken farm after all. Betty Bob is essential to my economic welfare.” Everyone nodded at this obvious bit of information.
“Don’t mean to be nosey, Chief, but how did the two bits get separated in the first place?” asked Applecracker. “I mean heads just don’t leave bodies on their own.”
“You are being a nosey little sumbitch, Applecracker, but it’s a fair question. You know, it would make my job easier if they did. Then Betty Bob wouldn’t have to hold the chickens on to the stump while I lopped off their heads. I mean if they just came off when it was the right time, we wouldn’t have to go through all that work. Any other questions?” asked Bo Bob.
“So, how did hers come off, Chief?” asked Applecracker, pressing on gamely.
“With the axe! You are a pushy little sumbitch, aren’t you? You new here?”
“Yes” moaned Applecracker, bending over, his face in his hands, “I just got off of the boat from Pakistan yesterday.”
“Welcome to town boy!” exclaimed the Captain, rushing forward, his hand extended, “Good to have you on the force! Could use some new blood here.”
“Oh, god!” moaned Applecracker, as everyone else approached him, their arms outstretched. He shook each proffered hand, thanking them all by name.
“Smart boy, this one. Been here only one day and knows everyone by name. Speaks damn good English too, for an Italian! You’ll go far in this department, boy, that’s for sure,” predicted Weatherblatt.
Suddenly, Captain Jackson rushed to the window and peered out, muttering, “Oh, baby, baby, baby,” Under his breath. Everyone followed him to the window. “False alarm, boys! Thought that was the Mayor walking by. Just Annamay Bob Weatherblatt headed for the lamppost like she does every day. She does seem to like that lamp post a lot.”
“She says it’s a comfortable place to think,” said her father.
“Seems like she meets up with an awful lot of out of town men while she’s there,” observed Smitherby.
“True enough, but she says she plays tricks on them, or some such nonsense.”
“Mighty fine daughter, Bill, just look at her hug that pole. She must be thinking about some mighty important stuff,.” observed Bo Bob.
“Responsible, too, for a fifteen year old!” returned her father, proudly. “She bought them boobs with her own money just last year. She saved that dollar a week allowance for two years to pay for ‘em.”
“Chief?” said Applecracker, his nose still pressed against the window as a pickup truck with out of state plates stopped, and Annamay jumped in.
“What now, Applecracker?”
“Could you please tell us the story of how your wife, Betty Bob Bitternut, happened to loose her head, and how was it that we came to find what may be her body a mile from your chicken farm? You know how much we love hearing that story!”
“Well boys, gather around, have a seat and let me tell you a funny story!” said Bo Bob, grinning from ear to ear. It was generally known that Bo Bob wouldn’t beat you up if you told him a funny story before he started pummeling you. Bo Bob loved a funny story. “Well, boys, it was this way. It was a hot morning, July 28th …”
“That’s two weeks from now!” Applecracker butted in.
“Who’s telling this story, foreigner? Who hired this guy, anyway?”
“The Captain did, he’s the Mayor’s son,” explained Smitherby.
“Damn fine woman, your mother. Fine Mayor too!” said Bo Bob to the Captain. “Young looking too.”
“She’s the foreigner’s mother,” corrected Smitherby.
“By dang! I’ve known you all these years, Billy Bob Jackson, and didn’t know you had a brother! Welcome to town, boy!” said Bo Bob pumping Applecracker’s hand. “Well, back to the story, since you insisted on hearing it. Like I was saying, it was a crisp day in June, the fifteenth I think, and Betty Bob and I were out by the chicken coop killing chickens, like we do. We have a chicken farm, you know. Raise chickens for them restaurants up north.” Everyone nodded.
“He’s not my brother,” said the Captain.
“Then why did you say he was? Make up your mind, Bill! Anyway, I’m whacking away at the chickens while Betty Bob holds ‘em down on the old stump. Feathers flying all over the place, blood squirting everywhere, just as always, until Betty Bob picks up one old chicken and sits her on the stump, and her hand slips off the chicken’s neck just as I’m coming down with the axe. She slips forward and her head hits the stump just as the axe does. Old Betty Bob’s head goes flying, blood squirting everywhere, it was a mess, I tell you!”
“So how did her body get a mile from your farm?” asked Vern.
“That’s the funny part!” said Bo Bob, chuckling. “Ever see a chicken with its head lopped off? Set it down and the durn thing will run like blazes until it finally falls over and dies. Well, that’s just what Betty Bob did! Woman’s been raising chickens for so long, she began to be like a chicken I guess. She hopped up and started running around like there was no tomorrow, arms a flappin’ just like a chicken’s wings! I started yelling at her to come back but she can’t hear me ‘cause her head ain’t attached. Then I started laughing, since it was so funny seeing her run around like she were. I laughed so hard I couldn’t hardly see, so I lost sight of her. By the time I stopped laughing, she was gone.”
“Didn’t you look for her?” asked Smitherby.
“Sure I did. What kind of a husband would I be if I didn’t go and look for her? Stood on that stump for a half an hour looking. I figured she’d come back when she was ready, then when she didn’t I figured she was just mad at me for lopping off her head. Figured she’d come back when she cooled down a bit and wasn’t quite so mad.”
“Didn’t you think she might be, you know, DEAD?” asked Applecracker.
“Thought about that. But you all know how strong headed Betty Bob is, I figured she’d come back, big as life!”
“So you’re saying you didn’t actually murder your wife, it was just a tragic accident? Is that right?” asked Weatherblatt.
“Yup!” said Bo Bob, “Who said she was murdered anyway?”
“The guy writing the story, didn’t you read the first line? That’s going to make it hard for him if it wasn’t a murder.”
“I suppose I could say I caught her with some other man and killed her in a jealous rage.”
“Is that what happened?”
“Well, it’s too late to change it now anyway. He’ll just have to deal with it. Can we go and see the head now, Bo Bob?”
“Is it Monday yet?”