And That's How It Was, Officer, p.1Ralph Sholto
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_When Uncle Peter decided to clean out the underworld, it was a fine thing for the town, but it was tough on the folks in Tibet._
"And that's how it was, officer"
By Ralph Sholto
David Nixon, Chief of Police, Morton City.
Dear Chief Nixon:
No doubt, by this time, you and your boys are a pretty bewildered lot.You have all probably lost weight wondering what has been going on inMorton City; where all the gangsters went, and why the underworld hasvanished like a bucket of soap bubbles.
Not being acquainted with my uncle, Peter Nicholas, with Bag EarsMulligan, with the gorgeous Joy Nicholas, my bride of scarcelytwenty-four hours, or with me, Homer Nicholas, you have of course beenout of touch with a series of swiftly moving events just culminated.
You, above all others, are entitled to know what has been happening inour fair city. Hence this letter. When you receive it, Joy and I will beon the way to Europe in pursuit of a most elusive honeymoon. Uncle Peterwill be headed for Tibet in order to interview certain very importantpeople you and your department never heard of. Bag Ears will probably beoff somewhere searching for his bells, and I suggest you let him keepright on searching, because Bag Ears isn't one to answer questions withvery much intelligence.
So, because of the fact that a great deal of good has been done at nocost whatever to the taxpayers, I suggest you read this letter and thenforget about the whole thing.
It all started when Joy and I finally got an audience with Uncle Peterin his laboratory yesterday morning. Possibly you will think it strangethat I should have difficulty in contacting my own close relative. Butyou don't know Uncle Peter.
He is a strange mixture of the doer and the dreamer--the genius and thechild. Parts of his brain never passed third grade while other partscould sit down and tie Einstein in knots during a discussion of nuclearphysics, advanced mathematics or what have you. He lives in a smallbungalow at the edge of town, in the basement of which is hislaboratory. A steel door bars the public from this laboratory and it wasupon this door that Joy and I pounded futilely for three days. Finallythe door opened and Uncle Peter greeted us.
"Homer--my dear boy! Have you been knocking long?"
"Quite a while, Uncle Peter--off and on that is. I have some news foryou. I am going to get married."
My uncle became visibly disturbed. "My boy! That's wonderful--trulywonderful. But I'm certainly surprised at you. Tsk-tsk-tsk!"
"What do you mean by tsk-tsk-tsk?"
"Your moral training has been badly neglected. You plan marriage evenwhile traveling about in the company of this woman you have with you."
Joy is a lady of the finest breeding, but she can be caught off-guard attimes. This was one of the times. She said, "Listen here, youbald-headed jerk. Nobody calls me a woman--"
Uncle Peter was mildly interested. "Then if you aren't a woman, what--?"
I hastened to intervene. "You didn't let Joy finish, Uncle Peter. She nodoubt would have added--'in that tone of voice.' And I think herattitude is entirely justified. Joy is a fine girl and my intendedbride."
"Oh, why didn't you say so?"
"I supposed you would assume as much."
"My boy, I am a scientist. A scientist assumes nothing. But I wish toapologize to the young lady and I hope you two will be very happy."
"That's better," Joy said, with only a shade of truculence.
"And now," Uncle Peter went on. "It would be very thoughtful of you toleave. I am working on a serum which will have a great deal to do withchanging the course of civilization. In fact it is already perfected andmust be tested. It is a matter of utmost urgency to me that I be leftalone to arrange the tests."
"I am afraid," I said, "that you will have to delay your work a fewhours. It is not every day that your nephew gets married and in alldecency you must attend the wedding and the reception. I don't wish youto be inconvenienced too greatly, but--"
Uncle Peter's mind had gone off on another track. He stopped me with awave of his hand and said, "Homer, are you still running around withthose bums from the wrong side of town?"
* * * * *
These words from anyone but Uncle Peter would have been insulting. ButUncle Peter is the most impersonal man I have known. He never bothersinsulting people for any personal satisfaction. When he asks a question,he always has a reason for so doing.
By way of explaining Uncle Peter's question, let me say that I am a firmbeliever in democracy and I demonstrate this belief in my daily life.More than once I have had to apologize for the definitely unsocialattitude of my family. They have a tendency to look down on those lessfortunate in environment and financial stability than we Nicholases.
I, however, do not approve of this snobbishness. I cannot forget that agreat-uncle, Phinias Nicholas, laid the foundations of our fortune bystealing cattle in the days of the Early West and selling them at anamazing profit.
I personally am a believer in the precept that all men are createdequal. I'll admit they don't remain equal very long, but that is besidethe point.
In defense of my convictions, I have always sought friends among theunderprivileged brotherhood sometimes scathingly referred to as bums,tramps, screwballs, and I've found them, on the whole, to be prettyswell people.
But to get back--I answered Uncle Peter rather stiffly. "My friends aremy own affair and are not to be discussed."
"No offense. My question had to do with an idea I got rather suddenly.Will any of these--ah, friends, be present at the reception?"
"It is entirely possible."
"Then I could easily infiltrate--"
"You could what?"
"Never mind, my boy. It is not important. I'll be indeed honored toattend your wedding."
At that moment there was a muffled commotion from beyond a closed doorto our left; the sound of heels kicking on the panel and an irate femalevoice:
"They gone yet? There's cobwebs in this damn closet--and it's dark!"
Uncle Peter had the grace to blush. In fact he could do little else asthe closet door opened and a young lady stepped forth.
In the vulgar parlance of the day, this girl could be described only asa dream-boat. This beyond all doubt, because the trim hull, from stem tostern, was bared to the gaze of all who cared to observe and admire. Shewas a blonde dream-boat--and most of her present apparel had come fromlying under a sun lamp.
Uncle Peter gasped. "Cora! In the name of all decency--"
Joy, with admirable aplomb, laughed gayly. "Why, Uncle Peter! So it'sthat kind of research! And no wonder it's top-secret!"
Uncle Peter's frantic attention was upon the girl. "I was never somortified--"
She raised her hair-line eyebrows. "Why the beef, Winky? Aren't weamong friends?"
"Never mind! Never mind!" Uncle Peter fell back upon his dignity--havingnothing else to fall back on--and said, "Homer--Joy--this is Cora, myah--assistant. She was ah--in the process of taking a shower, and--"
Joy reached forth and pinched Uncle Peter's flaming cheek. "It's allright, uncle dear. Perfectly all right. And I'll bet this chick can givea terrific assist, too."
I felt the scene should be broken up at the earliest possible moment. Isteered Joy toward the door. I said, "We'll see you later, then, UnclePeter."
"And you too, Miss Courtney," Joy cut in. "Make Winky bring you anddon't bother to dress. The reception is informal."
I got Joy out the door but I couldn't suppress her laughter. "Winky,"she gasped. "Oh, my oran
* * * * *
We will proceed now, to the reception, which was given by my AuntGretchen in the big house on Shore Drive. We were married at City Halland--after a delicious interlude while the cab was carrying uscross-town--we arrived there, a happy bride and groom.
I am indeed fortunate to have wooed and won such a talented andbeautiful girl as Joy. A graduate of Vassar, she is an accomplishedpianist, a brilliant conversationalist, and is supercharged with avitality and effervescence which--while they sometimes manifest indisturbing ways--are wonderful to behold. But more of that later.
The reception began smoothly enough. The press was satisfactorilyrepresented, much to Aunt Gretchen's
And That's How It Was, Officer by Ralph Sholto / Science Fiction have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on16 votes