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The International Writers Magazine:Dreamscapes

Uncle Pringle and the Stalker
Martin Green

The first inkling I had of the problem was when my friend and fellow science-fiction writer Al Abrams called.  
“I wonder if I can come over and talk to you,” he said.
“Sure.   Ellen and I would like to see you.   It’s been a while.”
“I’d like to bring my new girl friend Kathleen.”
“I didn’t know you had a new girl friend. Sure, we’d love to meet her.”

“There is a problem,” he said.
“Uh, oh.   Don’t tell me she’s a witch, too.”    

When Al had broken up with his  last girl friend she’d turned out to be a witch and had put a curse on him.   He’d suffered all kinds of misfortune, until my wife Ellen’s Uncle, Claude Pringle, had intervened and brought the curse to an end.
“What?   Oh, no, not at all.   Kathleen is the furthest thing in the world from being a witch.   She’s an angel.   But there is a problem.”
“What have you done now?”
“Well, it’s really Kathleen’s problem.   I thought maybe your Uncle Pringle would be able to help.   It’s, well, she’ll tell you when we come over.”
“Okay.”   We arranged for them to come the next afternoon.    I was curious about Al’s new girl friend, the angel, and I wondered what her problem was.
We were all sitting in our living room, drinking the coffee and eating the cakes that my wife Ellen had prepared.    Al was right, I thought, Kathleen was an angel.   She was a lovely girl, in her twenties, with long brown hair framing an oval face and large trusting brown eyes.   Her features were almost perfect    She spoke in a soft voice that was like water running in a brook.   It was clear that Al was gone on her, and I couldn’t blame him.
After we’d talked about a number of other things, including Al’s latest book, which was doing very well, Ellen finally asked, “So, Kathleen, you have a problem my Uncle Pringle might help you with?”
Kathleen looked down at her slender white hands..  “I hate to bother you,” she said.
“That’s all right.   My Uncle Pringle has a knack for solving people’s problems.”
“Yes, I know.   Al has told me about him.   But I don’t know if he can help me.”
“Kathleen has a stalker,” broke in Al.   “This guy keeps coming after her and he won’t back off.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” I said.   “I assume you’ve gone to the police?’
“Kathleen’s done everything,” said Al.   “Restraining orders, the whole bit.   It seems they can’t do anything until he actually attacks her and then it’ll be too late.”
I saw that Kathleen had tears in her eyes.   “Look, I can see it’s painful for you to talk about your, uh, situation.   Why don’t we see Uncle Pringle and you can tell him all about it.   If anyone can help it’s him.”

Uncle Pringle had worked in several government agencies, just which ones it was hard to say, but whatever they did was top secret.   Now he was, he said, a consultant, although just what he consulted about also wasn’t clear.   After my last encounter with him, during which time a notorious gangster who’d threatened a friend of ours had  been found murdered, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know any more.   You’d think he’d have an office, but he said he preferred to operate from a bench in one of the city parks.   He said it gave him a chance to be outdoors and to observe people.
On the appointed day, all four of us---Kathleen, Al, Ellen and myself---went to the park.   Uncle Pringle, as usual, was seated on his bench, feeding the pigeons.   He was a small white-haired man who looked remarkably like the old English actor whose first name he shared, Claude Rains.   After greetings and introductions, Kathleen said she had a stalker and she couldn’t get rid of them.   Uncle Pringle nodded.   “Yes, they are notoriously difficult to get rid of.   And I suppose the police told you they couldn’t do anything unless he committed a crime.   May a ask you a few questions?”   
Kathleen seemed much more composed; Uncle Pringle had a way of calming people.   We found out that her stalker was a man named John Clinton, in his thirties, ordinary-looking, not a person you’d think was a threat.   Kathleen had met him through an online dating service.   She and a girlfriend had tried it on a lark.   He’d taken her to dinner, then back to her place and had behaved perfectly.   Oddly, he’d hinted at having a top-level but secret government job, possibly in the CIA.   He couldn’t tell her anything more.  
She’d gone on a second date with him, to a symphony concert.   This time he brought flowers and when he saw her home he told her he knew she was the girl for him, they were fated to be together.   He kissed her, or tried to, and tried to do more until she finally told him he was going too fast for her.   Then he drew back and said he understood, he knew she’d come around.   He wanted to know when he’d see her again; she said she’d call him.
It so happened that Kathleen’s girl friend ran into John Clinton when she brought her automobile in to a car wash.   He was one of the workers; she recognized him from the photo on the dating service website.   She of course told Kathleen.   There went Clinton’s tale of being a CIA agent.   The rest of Kathleen’s story had a familiar ring to it.    When she didn’t call him, Clinton called her.   When she refused to take his calls, he showed up at her apartment.   He’d found out where she worked and sent her flowers, candy and other gifts there.   Finally, he accosted her after work and tried to push her into his van, but a few of her co-workers came to her assistance and he drove off.   That was when she’d gotten the restraining order, but he’d ignored it, calling her at all hours, e-mailing her constantly and lately the calls and e-mails had become more threatening.   Here, she lost her composure and said, “I don’t know what to do.   I’m really frightened.”
 “That’s understandable,” said Uncle Pringle.   “Let’s see.   Stalkers are usually insecure young men.   That’s why he wanted you to think he was possibly in the CIA, to impress you and boost his ego.   I think we might be able to work with that.”
Here Uncle Pringle’s cell phone rang.   “Excuse me, my dear,” he said.   “Oh, hello, Barack.   Yes, I see.   Well, I wouldn’t try bowling again.   I might have a few suggestions.   In Washington tomorrow then.   Good.”
“Was that …” I began.
“A young friend of mine,” he said.   “Now, where were we?   Yes.   Your stalker.   It’s clear that he’s fixated on you.   We must do something to take him out of the picture.”
“You can call on one of your, uh, contacts,” I said, “and have him, uh, removed.”
Uncle Pringle smiled.   “You’re thinking of our late gangster friend.   No, that was an extreme case.   I believe there’s another way.   We must arrange to meet with this Mr. Clinton.”
“Oh, no,” cried Kathleen.   “I couldn’t.”
“I meant that I would meet with him.   And perhaps my nephew-in-law can accompany me; he’s familiar with my methods.   I want you to invite him to your apartment the next time he contacts you.   You won’t be there, of course.   We’ll be there instead.”
“He calls and e-mails me all the time,” said Kathleen.
“Then it won’t be long before you’ll have seen the last of him.”
Uncle Pringle and I sat in Kathleen’s darkened living room.   The doorbell rang.   “Ah, eight o’clock.   He’s right on time.”   He called out, “Come in, the door’s open.”
John Clinton came into the apartment.   As Kathleen had said, he was ordinary-looking, but he also looked fit and able to fight if it came to that.   I hoped it wouldn’t.  
“Who are you?” he demanded.   “Where’s Kathleen?”
“The young lady is fine.   She asked us to see you on her behalf.”
“Why should I believe you?   If you’ve done anything to her …”    He advanced toward Uncle Pringle, his fists clenched.
 “I said she’s fine.   Now sit down.”   There was something in Uncle Pringle’s voice, a hard edge, that was very authoritative.   Clinton sat.
“Now,” said Uncle Pringle.   “Kathleen is an extraordinary young woman, you’ll agree.”
 “She’s a jewel,” said Clinton.   “A princess.”
“Yes, a princess.   You’ll recall that to win a princess’s hand a man has to be something special.   You tried to pass yourself off as that, but she found out you worked in a car wash.”
 “That’s just temporary.   I’ll do anything to win her.”
  “Good.   You’ll have your chance.   Do you remember Osama Ben Laden?”
  “Sure.   The Al Qaeda guy.”
  “Some may have forgotten him.   But a special force is still hunting him.   Taking part in Osama’s capture, that would be special, wouldn’t it?”
 Clinton’s eyes lit up.   “Yes, yes.”
 Uncle Pringle took out a business card and handed it to Clinton.   “Call the number on the card.   Mention my name, Claude Pringle.”   He stood up.
Clinton stared at the card as if it contained the answer to all of his problems.   “Thank you,” he said.   “Thank you.   Tell Kathleen I’ll e-mail her when I can.”
“I’m sure you will,” murmured Uncle Pringle.                                    
I met Uncle Pringle at his usual bench the next week.   “Did Clinton call your friend?” I asked him.
“Oh, yes.   He wouldn’t miss the chance to win Kathleen.”
“Where is he now?    Is he actually hunting for Bin Laden?”
“Well, he believes he is.   He’s with one of the tribes in the mountains of Afghanistan.   I don’t believe they have e-mail there.”
“But if they find Bin Laden?”
“I said he believes he’s looking for him.   It’s very unlikely that they’ll find him.   A few other men, undesirables, have been dispatched to join with the native tribes there.   None has returned, as yet.    Your friend Kathleen need have no fear.”
I called my friend Al Abrams.   “Your Uncle Pringle is quite a guy,” he said.
“He continues to amaze me.”
 The next time Al and Kathleen visited, she showed us the engagement ring he’d just given her.
© Martin Green June 2008

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