THE BOOK SHOPPE
Edward Oswald propped his feet on one of his desk drawers and leaned back in his chair. Martha Long, owner of one third of St. Charles Rare Books and Maps, had come in and told him that a wire transfer for $500,000 had just been posted to their private bank account in Denmark.
Edward suggested that Martha have a seat, and he reached for the phone and rang the intercom. Pamela Logan answered,
“Yes, Edward. What can I do for you?”
“If you’re not too busy, step into my office and join Martha and me for a little celebration.”
“I can do that. What are we celebrating?”
“The eagle has landed.”
“Great! I’ll be right down.”
Pamela owned the other third of the business, which was located in the old section of St. Charles, Missouri. St. Charles Rare Books and Maps did a brisk international business buying and selling books and documents, but today’s little office party had nothing to do with that part of their organization. Today’s influx of cash came from their parallel career as international assassins.
Earlier in the month Edward and Pamela had traveled to London on assignment. Pamela handled the logistics, and Edward did the actual wet work. The unfortunate demise of a member of the Saudi royal family, had resulted in today’s receipt of the success-half of their fee. While in London, Edward had procured documents to take back to the bookstore, which were signed by Queen Anne in 1701, and Oliver Cromwell, as Lord Protector, in 1656.
Pamela entered the office, and Edward suggested that if Martha would close the shop for the afternoon, he’d break out a bottle of the Latour Pauillac 2005 from the case he’d found in Paris. While Martha closed up and Edward went to his wine cellar, Pamela pulled a 2 ounce jar of caviar from the fridge. When Edward opened the wine, everyone had a glass, along with caviar on crackers, and Edward offered a toast to their health and prosperity. They had worked through a full bottle of the wine, when Edward suggested that they treat themselves to dinner at their favorite restaurant, Tony’s, in downtown St. Louis.
The ladies agreed, on the condition that they be allowed to go home and freshen up. Edward, who lived in an apartment above the shop, concurred, and they made plans to meet back at the shop at 7:00. Edward, in keeping with the festive nature of the occasion, suggested that they take his pride and joy to Tony’s. Edward owned a fully restored 1940 Packard Super 8 touring car, but it seldom saw the street. Pamela and Martha decided that he was getting a little tipsy from the wine, but readily agreed.
The trio settled into the car, and Edward pulled the Packard out of the garage and headed to downtown St. Louis. He’d called ahead to Tony’s to make reservations, not so much to insure that they would be seated promptly, but more to assure that his favorite parking valet was on duty. Edward took no chances where the Packard was concerned. Once he was satisfied that his car would be pampered, they went into the restaurant, and were greeted by Vinnie Bommarito, Tony’s owner, who gushed.
“Good evening, Dr. Oswald. If you and the ladies will follow me, I have your favorite table ready.”
“Thanks Vinnie,” Edward replied, and they were guided to a small table, snuggled into an intimate nook that assured privacy. The waiter came to take their drink orders, and Pamela requested a bourbon neat, Martha a kir, and Edward a single malt scotch on the rocks. After enjoying their drinks, they ordered, and were presently savoring an extraordinary meal.
Thoroughly satiated after dinner, they retrieved the Packard, Edward tipped the valet generously, and they began to weave through the deserted streets of downtown St. Louis. They left the central business district, and drove through a mixed industrial and residential area, situated just before the ramp onto the Interstate. When they stopped at a traffic light, Pamela, who was looking out the backseat window, noticed a young woman in a McDonald’s uniform, talking to three men. Before the light changed, one of the men grabbed the young woman and pulled her into an alley between two commercial buildings.
Pamela quickly leaned over the seat toward Edward.
“Did you see that?”
“Indeed I did, and I fear that we must intervene,” replied Edward.
“You bet your ass we’re going to intervene. I’ll get out here, and you and Martha take the car and pull into the other end of that alley. Leave your lights on, and don’t get out unless you see me signal you.”
“Do be careful, Pamela. I’d hate to have come to your defense.”
“Don’t worry about me. Just block the alley.”
Pamela jumped out of the Packard, and disappeared into the night.
The three men were gathered around the young girl, one holding her and grabbing her by the hair, while the other two unfastened their pants. As they were about to launch into their little party, a car pulled into the far end of the alley and stopped, its lights illuminating the scene like a movie set. The three men stared at the lights, threw the girl to the brick pavers, and turned to run out of the other end of the alley. They took about ten steps, and stopped dead in their tracks.
Standing at the entrance to the alley, was a slim young woman in a black cocktail dress and high heels, arms folded across her chest, calming staring them down. Opening her small clutch, she removed a small, round, white ball, kicked off her shoes, and resumed her relaxed pose at the end of the alley. Slowly, the car began to move toward the men, at which point the thugs were faced with a relatively easy choice; wait for the car that might be the cops, or force their way past the small woman who stood glaring at them.
They turned, and like a football flying wedge, ran three abreast right for the woman in black. Steadily, Pamela stood her ground until the trio was within range, then wound up like Nolan Ryan, and delivered a blazing fast ball. The middle thug, who happened to be the biggest of the three, caught the golf ball between his eyes, and went down in a motionless heap.
Surprise registered in the eyes of his two companions, but by this time, they were coming too fast to make any adjustments. Just before impact, Pamela whirled a full 360 degrees, and with the heel of her left foot, caught the right hand guy on the bridge of his nose. Blood splattered, and his momentum carried him head first into the side of a large green dumpster.
This left the shorter, stockier of the three, who caught the side of Pamela’s hand across his Adam’s apple, while her right foot came up hard between his legs. By the time Edward had pulled up in the car, the three men were lying on the bricks, comatose and bleeding. Pamela straightened her little black dress, and wiped her hands on a Kleenex.
“There’s the real reason I took you on as a partner Nobody does this as well as you,” said Edward.
“Let’s stick these scumbags in this dumpster, and then see if we can help the girl,” Pamela said, as she opened the top to the big, green garbage bin. The three of them struggled the three unconscious forms into the container, slammed the lid shut, and immediately turned to the young girl, who was leaning against a wall, sobbing.
Pamela bent over and lifted the young women’s head, and began to wipe her face with her Kleenex. The girl stopped crying and looked up.
“Who are you, Wonder Woman? You wrecked those three freaks all by yourself.”
“Just a passerby, honey. How’re you feeling?’
“Better since you guys showed up. I can usually catch a ride home, but tonight I waited too long to leave, so I had to walk. I live about ten blocks from here, and I thought I could pull it off. Shoulda known better and called a cab.”
“I think we got here before any real damage was done. Come on; we’ll give you a lift the rest of the way.”
Edward and Martha helped the girl to her feet, and led her to the backseat of the Packard, and as she looked at the car, she asked,
“Are you guys with a limo service?”
“Yeah,” Martha answered, grinning at Edward. “We’re with Edward’s Vintage Limos. We were just finishing a gig and were heading to the car barn.”
They let the young woman out in front of her house, and as they drove away, Edward handed Pamela golf ball.
“I believe this belongs to you.”
She looked at the ball, rolled down the window, and tossed it out, smiling at Edward as she said,
“No, it’s not mine. That was a Wilson. I was playing a Titleist.”
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Categories: Flash Fiction