I arrived at my office at 8:45 Monday morning. “You just received an important call. You’re to phone back immediately,” said Hank.
“Who is it?”
“Your old friend Les Trade. He and Greg Son need your help.”
“To write their resignation, I hope.”
I dialed the number. “Blandsville Police Department. Detective Les Trade here.”
“It’s Rock Tuff, Detective Trade.”
“Ahh, Rock. Thank you for returning my call so promptly. Greg and I need your help. It could give some good publicity for your business.” The first-name buddy-buddiness made me suspicious.
“You’ve heard of Mugsey Capone?”
“Of course. He was Blandsville’s public enemy number one until he was arrested a couple of months ago.”
I remembered the story well. He was speeding along a main street in a stolen car when he hit another vehicle driven by a little old lady of seventy-five. They began to argue and when the police arrived, she was hitting him over the head with her purse. The police took him to the hospital, then to jail. He was convicted of a series of charges and the consecutive sentences should keep him in jail for the rest of his life. The little old lady got a week for assault.
“Well, somehow Mugsey escaped, but we have him cornered in a bungalow on Ottawa Cul-de Sac.”
“Good for you. But why do you need me?”
“For some reason, he doesn’t trust our negotiators. He wants to talk to you and your girl-friend, what’s her name? Mandy Freud?”
“It’s Amanda Friend and she’s not my girl-friend.”
“We’ve already sent a car for her and we’ll pick you up in a few minutes, Rock. Blandsville is counting on you.”
Soon after, Amanda and I were facing the three houses on Ottawa Cul-de-Sac, in the middle one of which was the fugitive. Three police cars with flashing lights, a van as temporary headquarters, the usual yellow tape, and a dozen policemen and –women had drawn a curious crowd.
“Tell him if he surrenders we won’t add six months to his sentence for trying to escape,” said Trade.
“But he’s already serving life,” I reminded the Detective.
“Yes, but he may not realize that. Oh, by the way, he doesn’t want any hidden weapons or taped conversations so he insists that you and Mandy both be…uh, completely naked.”
“Now wait a minute.”
“It’s for Blandsville,” Son reminded me.
A policewoman took Amanda into the van, while a policeman held a large box into which I deposited my clothes, shoes, watch and wallet. I tried not to stare when Amanda emerged from the van. As we walked towards the house, there were a few appreciative whistles and the clicking and buzzing of various cameras. This was not the kind of publicity I had expected.
When we reached the front steps, the door opened slightly and a man motioned us inside. He was of medium height and build, middle-aged, had a dark complexion, and a still-bandaged head. The most impressive thing about him was the pistol he brandished in his left hand.
“Hey, great figger!” he said.
“Thank you,” I replied.