Me Ol' China Joe - Part Three of Three - A Craven Danger Mystery
London, 1 September 1948
At the Hangman's Noose on the Thames Betty took in the view from her table overlooking the river.
I give Mr. Danger five more minutes before I go inta that bar and put an early end ta tomorrow's headache. I'd hate ta shame the sweet lug in front a Joe, but things like drinkin' are better left ta the kind a man who can swill booze and still keep his wits between his ears. Most of Mr. Danger's wits have gone walkin’ with the dinosaurs. I'd hate for him to lose the few he'll need if he ever wants ta make himself a real private detective.
"Ah, Betty!" said Joe. "Thought I'd come out and put your mind at ease about our dear Mr. Craven."
"He ain't hangin' from anything is he? Like a ceilin' fan or a tall blonde?"
"Ha! No!" said Joe. "Not at the moment, dear Betty. He's being, erm, 'entertained' by my good mates the Trafalgar Twins. But Sidney's got his back at the moment. They're busy grilling Clyde the Parrot."
"They’re cookin’ a parrot?" said Betty.
"Ha! No, Betty. They’re only talking to him. Clyde’s as old as Methusala's uncle. He’s hanging from the ceiling in a cage that's big enough for a whole family of parrots, but Clyde's outlived them all and he's got the cage all to himself now. The biggest cage in all of London! The story goes that Clyde once belonged to Captain Kidd and knows the whereabouts of the pirate's buried treasure. Many a man has tried to get the treasures location out of Clyde, but no one's ever succeeded. Our dear Mr. Craven is trying his best at the moment."
"As long as it ain't a pigeon," said Betty. "Pigeons and Mr. Danger don't mingle too good. He hates them hangin' around his window ledge at the office. They leave bird poop everywhere and Mr. Danger takes it personally. 'They're mockin' me, Betty!' he sez. 'I just know it! And I ain't gonna put up with it anymore! Where’s my gun! I’ll show ‘em!' The city streets are littered with the thousand and one slugs that missed everyone a them pigeons. That's why I had ta take his bullets away. I only dole them out in emegencies, like when he loses the key ta the office, or when he can't find the can opener and I'm dyin' for a cup a coffee. He shoots a coupla holes in the top of the can and the coffee pours out nice and easy. Mr. Danger thought we should patent the idea, and that's when I decided he needed a good long trip away from the office. And here we are, Joe."
"Well, thanks to Sidney, I'm the better for having met you bunch." said Joe.
"How'd ya two meet up?"
"Me and Sidney were both on leave and met at a dance hall in London in 1943. I was with my Jill and he was with his old flame Miriam. And, boy, could those two jitterbug! Me and my sweetie were pretty smooth on the dance floor, but nothing like Sidney and Miriam. They danced circles around the whole bunch of us and walked away with the top prize. What a night that was. You and Mr. Craven like to dance, Betty?"
"If ya call two people lookin' tormented and at each others throats like two twisted pretzels dancin', then I'd say, yeah, we really like ta cut a rug, Joe."
“Hey, Joe,” said Sidney. “I think ya better come back to the bar and help me out with them Trafalger Twins before Mr. Danger loses his socks, shorts and toenails. They’re takin' everything but the fillin’s in his teeth. What kind a mugs are these friends of yours, Joe? I’m afraid ta turn my back on ‘em.”
“Oh, they’re just havin’ fun, Sidney. They used to be two of the best pick-pockets in London, but they’re legit now. They’re just testing Mr. Craven’s detecting skills is all. I’ll go back in and straighten things out. Is Mr. Craven enjoying his whiskey?”
“If ya call weepin’ everytime the barmaid says, ‘s’cuse me, love, would you care for another whiskey?’ enjoyin’ his cocktail, I guess you could say he’s havin’ a barrel of fun. When I left the Trafalgar's was tryin’ ta find Mr. Danger a ladder so’s he could get closer to that parrot.”
“I better get in there and make sure the fellas aren't doin' too much damage to his ego.” said Joe.
“I’m way ahead of ya,” said Betty.
"Scotland Yard. Inspector Langley speaking. How may I help you? . . . You don't say. Stuck in a bird cage? And you're certain about this? . . . How do you suppose he got in there? . . . Hmm. Yes. Whiskey sounds about right. I'll send a car over right away."
"Bawwwk! Clyde feelin' squished! Bawwk! Get ‘im out! Bawwwk!”
"Why's Mr. Danger naked in a bird cage?" said Sidney.
"Fellas!" said Joe.
Photo credit: Betty Felcher