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••• The International Writers Magazine - 24 Years on-line - Dreamscapes Fiction

Damsel in Distress
• Martin Green
Scene at the Diner ...


When I heard about what happened it seemed to me like a scene from an old movie.   Alvin was at a restaurant table with two other professors from the college where he taught.   A couple of tables away a good-looking man and a beautiful woman looked to be having an argument, then the man suddenly reached out and slapped the woman in the face, hard.

    In case the reader isn’t familiar with my chronicles of Alvin Oats, he had partially solved what he called the Universal Theorem, which explained everything about everything, and had become involved in a series of adventures that had started when he rescued Amy, a chorus girl with a degree in mathematics, from the clutches of a casino owner and mobster called Big Al.    I’m Jake Cairns and I’d kind of assisted him in the rescue and so had become one of his group, the other person being George, Alvin’s man of all trades and probably former M-15 or M-16 or whatever the Brits have over there..    The reader is advised to look up The Adventure of the New England Crime Boss, The Philosophy Professors Puzzle and The Diamond Diamond Caper.

     As noted above Alvin had rescued a chorus girl from a mobster and here again he was ready to come to the aid of a damsel in distress.    While the other restaurant patrons studiously ignored the slapping incident (the man was not only handsome but was large and imposing-looking) Alvin immediately sprang up from his chair, went over to the woman and asked if she was alright, although it was obvious that she wasn’t.

     The large man stood up and told Alvin to mind his own business.  Alvin said he was making it his business.  The woman was crying.  Two other large men who’d been sitting nearby came over and one said, “A problem, boss?”  These  other hulking men looked like they were goons.   The handsome large man said, “No problem.  Our friend was just leaving.”

     “And this lady is leaving with me,” Alvin said, taking the beautiful woman’s arm.

     The two goons started to move toward Alvin but the handsome man put out his arm and said, “That’s all right, Benny and Vinny.  I’m sorry I lost my temper just now. Let Gloria go with this gentleman.  We’ll sort this all out at a later time.”

     “You don’t know who you’re dealing with,” said one of the goons, Benny or Vinny   “The Boss doesn’t like it when he’s crossed.  You’ll be hearing from us.”

     “I’m sure I will,” said Alvin.

                                    *               *               *

     So that’s how it started and why a short time later Alvin was introducing us to Gloria Mason as we gathered in the living room of his house.   She was a knockout, a tall redhead with a perfect face and curves in all the right places.    She reminded me of that old actress, Rita Hayworth.    “Thanks for getting me away,” said Gloria, “but I’m afraid you’ve made an enemy of a very bad man.   His name is Harry Mancuso.  Maybe you’ve heard of him.”  

     “Slick Harry Mancuso,” said George, who kept track of such things.  “Moved here a short time ago from New York, said to be taking over as crime boss from Gentleman Jimmy Diamond.”

     “How come I didn’t know about this?” said Alvin, who’d been instrumental in Gentleman Jimmy’s semi-retirement.

     “You and Amy were too busy working on that Universal Theorem,” said George.

     “Oh,” said Alvin.    “Do you think this Slick Harry fellow will try anything?’ he asked Gloria.

     “I don’t know.  He doesn’t usually act impulsively.  He got mad at me at the restaurant because he’d asked me to move in with him and I said I wouldn’t.  I like to keep myself independent.   Harry thinks I belong to him and he wouldn’t be too happy with someone he’ll think took me away from him.”

     “Well,” said Alvin.  “I think it’s just as well if Gloria stays the night here.  Tomorrow we’ll discuss the situation.”

                                    *               *               *

       The next day Alvin assured Gloria that she could stay with us as long as she liked but she insisted that she’d go back to her hotel, repeating that she liked to keep her sense of independence.   George and I said we’d go with her, just in case.    We were about to get into the car when another car pulled in behind it and two large men, the goons from the restaurant I assumed, got out.    George and I were reaching into our pockets but one of them held out his hands and said, “We come in peace.”

     “Hello, Benny.   Vinny,” said Gloria.   "What’s up?”

     “Harry sent us to give you his apologies.  Oh, and this.”   Benny or Vinny reached into the car but came out, not with some weapon, but a large bouquet of roses.  He handed the bouquet to Gloria.  “Harry would like to take you out to dinner tonight,” he said.

     “I’ll accept his apology and take the flowers,” said Gloria.    “But no dinner.”

     The two goons looked disappointed.

                                    *               *               *

     During the next few weeks nothing much happened.   Alvin, who taught a course in probability at the local college and had an office there and Amy, who was taking a course in philosophy at the college, both went about their business as usual.    George tagged along with Amy and I did the same with Alvin but the only things that came up were that Amy strenuously argued a philosophical point with her professor and Alvin had a student who thought he should get a higher grade and neither posed any physical danger.

     But Gloria Mason was still very much in our lives; or, I should say, in Alvin’s life.    He took her to a recital at the college, to a play at our local theater and to dinner several times.    It looked as if maybe he was attracted to her and who could blame him.    As I’ve said, she reminded me of Rita Hayworth.    Amy was suspicious of Gloria’s intentions.   There’s something off about here, she insisted, although when I asked her she couldn’t say what.   I somewhat agreed with her, especially as Gloria still seemed to be in touch with Slick Harry, who was still trying to woo her back to him.

     Slick Harry, we heard through George’s contacts, was also being active in other ways.   He’d taken over the protection racket, we heard, as well as ownership of the town’s brothels.    He’d also made sizeable contributions to several of the town’s council members.  In short, he was becoming the town’s new crime boss.

     Then, on a quiet weekday evening we got a phone call and everything changed.  An obviously disguised voice told us that a bomb had been planted at the college and was due to go off in half an hour.  The voice said that Alvin could forget about his teaching job.

     Amy immediately said we should call the sheriff.  George said they wouldn’t be able to do anything in time and they probably didn’t have a bomb removal specialist.  Come on, he said to me, let’s get to the college.   “I suppose you can defuse a bomb,” I said.
  “I’ve had some experience doing that,” he said and somehow I wasn’t surprised.  “You two go,” said Alvin, “and I’ll call the sheriff anyway.”

     After a whirlwind drive in which we were lucky not to have crashed or run down anybody we were at the college and I said, “Where do you think the bomb might be.”

     “From what that person said I’m betting it’s in Alvin’s office,” said George. 
He was right; it was under Alvin’s desk, ticking away.  “Think you can defuse it?” I asked. 
“Piece of cake,” said George.”  
“Then you’ve seen this type before?”   
“Never, but doesn’t hurt to be confident.    Er, you might want to wait back in the hall.”   
“Nah, I’ll stay here, shows how confident I am in you.”

     George set to work, fiddling with wires and muttering to himself while I watched intently.   “Uh, the half hour is about up,” I said.  
“I think I have it,” said George.   The next thing I knew a house fell on my head and I was out cold.   Ordinarily, George was as alert as a cat and I was no slouch myself so the only excuse I can make for not knowing that Benny and Vinny, yes, those two again, had crept up behind us is that George was intent on defusing a bomb that was about to blow us up and I was intent on watching George.

     As it was, when I came to I found I was tied up hand and feet and so was George.   So at least George had defused the bomb and we hadn’t been blown up.   We were in what I was later to find out was the basement and wine cellar of Slick Harry’s mansion.   We weren’t the only ones there.   Slick Harry himself was there, pointing a gun at Alvin and Amy.   Benny and Vinny were of course there and so was Gloria Mason.   Gloria was telling Alvin that she’d given in and gone to dinner at the mansion only to have Slick Harry force her to call Alvin and tell him to come there or he’d kill her right then and there.

     So that was the situation, not as bad as if the bomb had gone off but still one I didn’t like.   I struggled against the ropes holding my hands and feet but no dice but I saw that George somehow had loosened his.   That looked promising; however, now my attention was all on Slick Harry as he faced Alvin.    “I don’t like it when someone crosses me,” Harry was saying.    “Any last words?”

     “I thought that when Gloria called there was a high probability that I’d be walking into a trap but I decided to come anyway.   Also, there’s a high probability that crime bosses in our town won’t last too long.”

     “We’ll see about that,” said Slick Harry, pointing his gun at Alvin’s head and then a shot rang out.    Harry dropped to the ground, his gun falling out of his hand.    I know you’ve seen this on television: just when the bad guy is about to shoot the hero there’s a shot and it turns out someone has sneaked up behind the bad guy and shot him just in time.   In this case, it was Gloria, holding a gun, and not looking like the scared woman she seemed before.   She looked quite composed.   “Take care of it,” she said to Benny and Vinny, gesturing toward Slick Harry’s body.   The two goons quickly jumped to do as she’d told them.   

     By this time George had undone his ropes and was on his feet.   “It’s okay,” said Gloria to him.   “Untie your friend.   I’ll call the sheriff.   I’m sure you’ll all agree that I shot Harry in self-defense.   You were right, Alvin.    Crime bosses in this town don’t seem to last too long.”

                                  *               *               *

         Sometime later we were all, except Gloria, gathered in Alvin’s house again.   “I told you there was something off about that woman,” said Amy.

     “You were right,” I said.   “What do you think?” I asked Alvin.

     “I always thought that a beautiful woman like Gloria being attracted to me had a low probability.”

     “Well,” said George.   “You saw the way Benny and Vinny behaved.   Do you think we have a another new crime boss?”

     “Hmm,” said Alvin.    “I’ll have to consult the Universal Theorem on that.”

     © Martin Green April 2023

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