August 31, 1984. I’ve never been a big fan of birthday parties, birthday cake, birthday bottles of perfume, and a day that celebrates getting older. But Detective John St. John believed in birthdays as much as I believed in the ASPCA, voting, the value of long walks, and vanilla ice cream. On my thirty-ninth birthday, Jigsaw wanted to give me a special present. When he asked what I wanted, I was ready.
“I want to save the frogs,” I told him. He looked bewildered.
“What the hell are you talking about?” he said, thinking I might want to go out to lunch.
Not wanting to scare him but determined to get my wish, I told him about the time we went to Chinatown during one of his investigations, and I was horrified at a grocery store with a big bucket of live frogs in the window. When I asked why a bucket of live frogs in a store window, he told me Chinese people love frogs’ legs. I was horrified! I’ve always loved frogs! At our summer home in Wisconsin on Lake Gilbert, I’d fall asleep to a fabulous symphony of frogs croaking and splashing. I love the way they get airborne in one leap. I love the way they croak and gurgle. I love the way their skin glistens in the sun. I love their leafy green color. I love frogs.
We marched to the Chinese grocery store that sold frogs. John asked me how many I wanted. I told him fifteen frogs. He flinched when he pulled out his wad and handed over eighty bucks. The grocery clerk was amused when I told him these frogs weren’t for eating. They were for rescuing. My scheme was to take them to my friend’s house where we’d planned a birthday celebration. Once there, we’d release them into a small lake on the local country club grounds. The grocery clerk looked amused but interested while he placed the frogs into a cardboard box. St. John said he’d never transported frogs in the back seat of the Crown Vic.
Once I place the box in the back seat of the Crown Vic, I asked John to please put something nice on the radio instead of crackling police noise (maybe he agreed because it was my birthday), so he turned to his favorite station that played music from the Dark Ages. When we pulled into my friend’s house, everyone was wowed at the box of frogs. Two mischievous kids took the package from the Crown Vic and snuck frogs into Diva Di’s showcase house. Holy hell broke loose. Diva Di screamed in panic as the army of frogs invaded her spotless kitchen, her perfectly appointed bedroom, and her tidy guest bathroom. John crawled onto his back to catch one that hopped under the fridge. Diva Di became hysterical when one frog hopped under her polished and stately grand piano while the rest of us drank champagne and howled like monkeys.
Badge Number One was certainly unmatched at catching killers but was lousy at catching frogs. He couldn’t hold a candle to two kids who corralled one frog after the other into the cardboard box. Finally, with all the frogs captured and accounted for, off we went to Los Posas Country Club for the Great Frog Launch. We drove to the lake, bottles of champagne in one car, frogs in the other, and gathered around the water. One by one, we released them into their new home with best wishes for their new life. We applauded! We yelped with delight until Jim announced the special of the day for tomorrow’s Sunday brunch. Frog’s legs! That brought the house down.