Craven Danger on the Rocks
“The usual, Mr. Danger?” said the bartender.
“Yeah,” said Craven. “The usual. And don’t forget to load ‘er up this time.”
“Comin' right up.”
Craven Danger looked to his left and eyed the bowl of peanuts on the far end of the bar. He made a boarding house reach and slid them his way.
“You going to hog the whole thing?” said the woman on the stool to his right. “I was just about to reach for those nuts, as well.”
“Then you must have arms like an orangutan,” said Craven. “‘Cause I could barely reach them myself. And, besides, there’s only a handful left.”
Craven shielded the bowl with his right hand and took a handful with his left.
“Oh, I see how it is,” said the woman. “Why are New York men so crude and selfish?”
Craven gestured that he had his mouth full and couldn‘t answer her just yet. Then he took a big swallow of peanuts.
”Ah, that‘s only in the movies,” said Craven. ”I got manners coming out of my ears.”
“But you?” said the woman. “There’s something different about you. Almost childlike.”
“Here ya go, Mr. Danger,” said the bartender. “Cherry Coke on the rocks. Heavy on the cherries. Just like you like it.”
“Thank you, Lou,” said Craven.
“Don’t mention it,” said Lou. “And do me a favor, Mr. Danger. Take it easy on those things. I don’t wanna have to call your momma to come get ya.”
“That gets funnier every time I hear you say it, Lou.”
”That‘s why I keep saying it.”
“So,” said the woman, “What brings a guy like you into a crummy joint like this?”
“A guy like me?” said Craven.
“Yeah,” said the lady. “A guy all suited up the way you are, and drinking fancy cherry Cokes, to boot. You should be on the banks of the French Riviera, living the high life.”
“You know, I was thinkin’ the same thing myself,” said Craven. “But then I realized my passport expired along with my bank account. So here I sit, on the banks of the Hudson River. Just waitin’ for my ship to come in.”
“Yeah,” said Craven. “My ship. You see, I’m Craven Danger. And I’m a private investigator. Twin Dangers, Private Investigators. When troubles afoot, we’ll lend you a hand. That’s our motto.”
“That’s downright poetic," said the woman.
“Thanks," said Craven. “Betty says I’m full of it. Poetry that is."
“Betty?” said the woman.
“My wife,” said Craven. “She’s the other Danger in Twin Dangers, Private Investigators. So I get a call last night to meet a ship named Lucy’s Pride on pier 17 this afternoon. I’m to hold up a sign that reads Lucy Flannigan. The same Lucy that’s got her name on the boat.”
“Sounds intriguing,” said the woman. “Very cloak and daggerish.”
“I’m to keep an eye on her while she’s in New York,” said Craven. “That’s what her husband told me. ’Keep her out of trouble,’ is what he said. ‘She’s always getting herself into fixes. And she always ends up dragging some dumb cluck along with her.’ But I got some time to kill, so I ducked in here for a cold soda.”
“Well, as long as you're waiting,” said the woman.
“How about a dance?”
“Uh,” said Craven, “I don’t know.”
“Sure you do,” said the woman.
“I don’t even know your name,” said Craven.
“This is New York,” said the woman. “The city of strangers. Just call me Miss.”
”Sorry, Miss,” said Craven, ”but I‘m all out of nickels for the juke box.”
“I got plenty, mister,” said the woman. “You just pick the tune.”
“All right," said Craven.
The woman handed Craven a nickel and he stepped over to the juke.
“N12," said Craven. “I think you’re gonna like it."
When Count Basie‘s One O‘clock jump came leaping out the juke box, the young woman grabbed Craven by the hand and led him to what little patch of open floor was available.
”Just follow me, Mr. New York man,” said the woman. ”And you won‘t get hurt.”
”If you say so,” said Craven. ”Betty says it‘s always better to tell me what to do. Asking me don‘t seem to work.”
”Smart lady,” said the woman. “Now, do like I do. And a one and a two and a one two three four!”
”Look at me,” said Craven. ”I'm Jitter Buggin‘!“
“See?” said the woman. “Just follow my lead and you can’t go wrong.”
“If only Betty could see me now!” said Craven.
On second thought, thought Craven. If Betty could see me now, she’d be pulling me out by my ear.
“Oh, dear," said the woman. “This is so embarrassing, but I have to use the ladies' room.”
“Now?” said Craven. “I can’t stop now! My feet won’t let me!”
“You don‘t have to stop,” said the woman. ”I‘ll get a stand-in. I don‘t want you to go losing your rhythm. Just keep moving.”
“My feet won’t stop!” said Craven. “Even if I wanted them to!”
“Excuse me, waitress,” said the woman.
“Could you dance this fine looking fellow until I get back? I want to go powder my nose. Just make sure he doesn’t lose the beat.”
“That’d be swell,” said the waitress. “I love to dance, only my husband never takes me nowhere but bowling.”
“Then I’m leaving Mr. Danger in good hands,” said the woman. “I’ll be right back.”
When the cook stepped out from the kitchen to check on the whereabouts of his waitress, he watched as Craven slid the waitress in between his legs and back out again.
“Hey!” said the cook. “Whaddaya doin’ with my wife?”
“The Jitter Bug!” said Craven.
”Oh, a smart aleck,” said the cook. “Well, how’d you like to do the Jitter Bug with your ankles wrapped around your neck?”
“Sounds uncomfortable” said Craven.
“And painful,” said the cook.
When Craven came-to, a few moments later, he found himself stuffed in the dumb-waiter with his ankles around his neck.
”I‘m so sorry,” said the woman. ”Let me help you out of there. I should have left you alone. How about I buy you a drink?”
”Don’t bother,” said Craven. ”I have to get to pier 17 to meet that Lucy Flannigan at two o‘clock.”
“Two o’clock?” said the lady. “It’s ten minutes to four.”
“Yowser!” said Craven. “You wouldn’t kid a guy would you? Darn this cheap watch! If you don’t wind it up ever hour, you lose and hour. One day I forgot to wind it completely and I was twelve hours late for lunch. Boy, was Betty sore. I got to run quick.”
“Wait,” said the lady. “You forgot your Lucy Flannigan sign.”
“Thanks,” said Craven. “I’d lose my own head if I wasn’t so attached to it.”
“Your welcome,” said the lady. “And goodbye.”
When Craven Danger left the bar, the bartender filled the bowl with peanuts and passed them to the woman.
“Can I get you anything else, Mrs. Flannigan?” he said.
“No, thanks, Lou,” she said. “I think I’ve had enough fun for one day.”