38 Rock Tuff, P.I.: Clothes Make the Negotiator


For conversation, I resorted to a cliché: “Nice place you have here.”

“Yeah. It’s lucky no one was home. I hate to kill innocent people.” I hoped that Amanda and I qualified as “innocent people.”

I gave Mugsey Trade’s conditions. He scoffed. Then Mugsey gave me his demands: a helicopter with an experienced pilot and a full tank of gas, clothes to replace his prison garb, and a bag with ten thousand dollars in small, unmarked bills. Fortunately, the telephone in the house worked and the call was not long-distance. Trade scoffed at Capone’s demands. So much for negotiating.

“Look, Detective Trade,” I begged, “Amanda and I are here with an armed, escaped criminal – forgive me, Mugsey – and no clothes. Give him what he wants. Somewhere there’ll be another little old lady with a purse.” Mugsey winced. Finally Trade agreed.

Half an hour later, the helicopter arrived in a flurry of amateur photography. Mugsey followed us out, keeping his gun aimed at us and us between himself and the police. He did a quick check of the fuel gauge and the moneybag and we took off. Amanda and I had been transformed from naked negotiators to helpless hostages.

It was my first ride in a helicopter and it was interesting, although I hadn’t expected to take it without clothes and with an escaped criminal. I admired Amanda’s ability to remain ladylike while stark naked.

We soon passed the edge of town. Below, police cars were trying to maintain visual contact with our craft, despite the rigid restrictions imposed by the roads.

“Where are we going?” asked pilot.

Before Mugsey could answer, the copter began to sway from side to side like a cradle rocked by a crazy giant.

“What’s wrong?” we all asked.

“Poor maintenance,” said the pilot.

We were still flying forward, but descending at an alarming rate. I was waiting to see the rapid replay of my life, but before it began, there was a total blackout.

I awoke on a gurney in an ambulance, covered with a sheet. Next to me was the pilot.

“Where’s Amanda?”

“In another ambulance, I think.”

“What happened?”

“We crashed. Someone goofed the pre-flight check. Maybe in too much of a hurry,”

“How about Capone?”

“Either in an ambulance or a police car.”

After the hospital was certain there was nothing seriously wrong with me, I was reunited with my clothes and released. I met Amanda who was also okay and dressed again. We arranged to have a celebratory dinner that night at the Hamburger Heaven.

Then I went to the police station. “Wasn’t there a $20,000 reward for the capture of Capone?”

“Yep,” said Trade.

“And don’t Amanda and I deserve at least part of it?”


“Why not? We gave you the shirts off our backs, literally, and a lot more too.”

“You were acting as agents of the police, so you aren’t eligible for any rewards. Greg and I aren’t either, if it make you feel better.” It didn’t.

I went back to my office. “I saw you on television,” smiled Hank.

“So did everyone else.”

“It’s been great for business, though,” said Hank. “Five clients have called wanting to hire Amanda. All men, of course.”

“No women for me?”

“One. A widow. She wondered if you could use her late husband’s clothes.”


Clothes Make the Negotiator

Gary E. Miller spent 29 years trying to teach English at several high schools in Ontario. In 1995, he made his greatest contribution to education by retiring. He now spends his time in rural Richmond, reading voraciously and eclectically, and occasionally writing stories and poems which do nothing to elevate the level of Canadian literature.
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