In which Mike Bergen and his crimp-eared musclemen proceed to knock "this sissy tennis racket" for a row of gilt-edged wishbones
I’LL NEVER forget that raw February night when I whiffed up out of the subway at Broadway and 50th. The newsies were chanting in hoarse professional voices. Before I even caught a headline, I began to go cold inside, just under the belt buckle. For I knew, from what had been going on of late, that my job had folded. Then a streamer hit me between the eyesbang!
DISTRICT ATTORNEY BANS BURLESQUE!
Seeing your fears confirmed in print has a sickening finality. And this after I had punched the typewriter for two years as press agent for the “Meat Shows.” It wasn’t my fault that my clients had overstrained in their zeal to acquaint “art lovers” with the mysteries of the Body Beautiful. I had warned them that the new D.A. was tough. But they got carried away with their art, and now they had no art. And I, Stephen Aloysius McRuddy, had no job.
Well, I stood there, hands jammed into the pockets of the buttermilk polo coat I hadn’t paid for yet. All around me, home-and-supper gents were giving me the elbow in the New York manner. And me—I was just another Johnny with a headache under the belt and a coat I hadn't paid for.
I shivered and lit a cigarette. Upping my collar, I walked to the Hotel Fitzmaurice, a Broadway shooting gallery which gave me a room on an air shaft in exchange for occasional blurbs in the paper.
I unlocked my door and snapped on the light. And there, lying on the bed with their derbies over their big meaty faces, were Mike Bergen's Babs. Snoring away like two sea lions on an ice pack.
Now, as all Broadway knows, Mike Bergen’s Babs are Mike’s Baboons. Big hairy gents in Broadway overcoats, with fists like buckets of concrete. I looked at them for a minute, then reached for an old electric light bulb I'd been saving for cats. I heaved it into the fireplace, where it burst like a Mills bomb.
The Babs lit standing. Fists cocked, eyes crossed from the rude awakening. They looked pretty sheepish. I said: “Is it all right for me to come in?”
“You shouldn’t do that, Irish,” said Jake. Bab No. 1. “You should wake people up easy. Isn't that so, Louie?” Bab No. 2 nodded. “With soft music. That’s what the baby doctor always told my mother.”
I looked at them. Bullet heads set squarely on icebox shoulders, massive torsos, and those curious dried-apple ears which are the badges of wrestlers the world over. “Don’t tell me.” I said, “that either of you apes was ever a baby. You’re just a couple of nightmares that arrived full grown to start scaring people. What do you want, anyway?”
“Leave your coat on. Irish.” said Louie. “Mike wants to see you. He’s over at Lindy’s eating cheese blintzes. He’s got trouble, Mike has.”
“Trouble?” I sneered. “With his dough? I haven’t even got a job.”
Jake rubbed his granite jaw with a thumb, producing a sound effect like ripping canvas. “Well, mebbe you can help Mike out. That’s been known to keep a man off the streets.”
Louie opened the door. “Sure. Even a rat like you might help a lion once. Remember the fairy story of how some Frank Buck was dragging this lion off to the pokey, and a rat he done a good turn for once et off the leash, and they both took it on the lam?”
“Aw, shut up,” I said. We went down and over to Lindy’s. I was still sunk. But somehow, the fact that Mike Bergen had sent for me began to kindle a spark of hope. For Mike generally knew exactly what he wanted, and how to get about getting it. What’s more, Mike took the skid chains off his wallet for anyone who helped him. Jake held the door open for me.
“After you, sir,” he said. Then they both catapulted me into the vestibule. You could hear them laughing for blocks as they took up their positions outside Lindy’s.
INSIDE, it felt good. Soft lights, little booths done in red leather, a big curving bar. I chucked my things at Mary Ellen and threaded the tables to Mike’s corner. This corner table was the last one in the room, and it always bore a card “Reserved.” Sometimes Mike didn’t show up for a month or more, but nobody else sat there after four p.m.—ever. For when Mike Bergen told a man, in that quiet way of his, that he’d like this or that reserved-that man saw to it, personally. Only newcomers failed in this small courtesy, but they learned city manners in surprisingly short order. Mike had his own ideas about social usage, and these spread in certain circles with the speed of lies in the Indies’ Room.
As I approached, I knew Mike was watching. Not from any move, for Mike never moved that big square body unless he had to. (When duty called, however, you were amazed at the speed with which he could throw a hook from cither port or starboard.) Mike’s deep-set little eyes, of that dark brown which people call black, were always swivelling about in the shadow of their heavy brows.
Even now, as he polished off the blintzes, he ate by touch, you might say. For Mike had been taught, since boyhood on the far West side, that to Watch is to Thrive. In the rough-and-tumble to the Big Dough, he had been hit with everything except the Statue of Liberty. But no one had been able to make it. stick, and most of them had departed without even waiting to admire the scars they had put on Mike’s fine Athenian façade.
“Hello, Irish,” he grunted. “How’s the Meat Market?” “Dead," I said, dropping into the chair beside Goldie, Mike’s current fiancée. “Deader than fish on a fork.”
“D A. trouble?”
I nodded. Mike’s big white teeth went “click" on the tip of a big black cigar.
“You charged too much, Steve,” said Thoiteen, Mike’s confidential business representative who hailed from Brooklyn. “Thoity-five cents was a lot of scratch for a look at them college goils.”
Goldie gave him a burn from her blue eyes. “They ought to charge alligators like you a sawbuck to look through a telescope!”
“How many sawbucks did you ever rate when you was doing the can-can under canvas?” Thoiteen asked.
Goldie’s voice rose. “I’ll have you know, you brokennosed monkey, that I appeared in only the best theatres!” "Yeah,” sneered Thoiteen. “Mopping up the lobbies.” Goldie screamed at that. They were all set to go the route, but Mike held up a handthe one with the diamond. "Save it, I ain’t in the mood.” He frowned, then looked at me. "Irish, did you ever hear of a guy named Fishface Graham?”
“Seems 1 have,” I said. “Didn't he use to run beer and stuff back in ’30?”
"That’s Fishface. Well, we used to rig a few business deals together. Did all right, too. Then Fishface came in one day when I was riding high. ‘Mike,’ he said to me, ‘loan me fifty G’s. It’s all 1 need to close a real estate deal t-h-a-t big.’ So I slipped him the fifty and never gave it a thought. You know how much fifty G’s meant to me in those days.”
“Sure.” said Thoiteen. “No more’n a paring off a fingernail, Chief.”
“I’ll tell you this one,” Mike said. “Well. Fishface goes his way and I go mine. We don’t happen to meet again. 1 hear, off and on. that he’s buying apartments like you’d buy cigars, only quicker and bigger. Then we all go broke. And then, a couple of days ago. 1 get this in the mail.”
HE FUMBLED some papers out of an inside pocket. A deed, and a few smudged notes. "This is what I’ve got to show for my fifty G’s. Irish. And you could guess till you walked on your beard and not hit it. A couple of tennis lots way over on the East Side. How’s that for a pay-off?” “Where’s Fishface?”
Mike fanned out his huge hands, which looked like Manhattan ’phone directories. "On the lam. The new D.A. was breathing on the back of his neck when he hit a tramp steamer for Rio. He won’t be back, either. And all I’ve got is two tennis lots and three or four bums with flat feet and white pants.”
“You mean tennis professionals?”
“So they say,” grunted Mike with fine scorn. “As though anyone in his right mind would pay to watch a couple of sissies pat a ball across a hammock. I’ve been had before, but never by the Bloomer Girls.”
“Why don’t you go out and look the thing over?”
“I’ve been out, and that’s why I’m asking you. You went to college, didn’t you?”
“Next thing to it,” I said. “New York University for two years, until they fired the football coach. I played tennis too.”
“Not so loud,” hissed Goldie. “Someone might hear you and have us thrown out before we get our dinner.”
“You sit this one out,” said Mike. He blew' a smoke ring the size of a truck tire. “How Fishface ever got hooked with a rig like that has got me beat. Why, they only charge the public a buck an hour to play on the courts. How you going to make any dough there? Even if you put in night lights and ran ’em twenty-four hours a day with a fast clock, you couldn’t book over forty-eight bucks a day, or three hunnerd and thirty-six a w-eek. Chicken feed!” “And a goose egg when it rains,” reminded Thoiteen. "Or can you play in the rain, if you use rubber balls?”
I kept my face straight. “No, it’s no good in the rain. Or in wúnter, either.”
“What?” yapped Mike. “You mean you can’t play tennis on ice? That it’s only good for about six months a year?”
“That’s right. You’ll never get your stake back w'ith a couple of tennis courts against an I O U for fifty thousand. Even Barnum couldn’t have done it.”
Mike hunched his big shoulders in disgust. “That dope, Fishface! Owning more stuff than Astor, and then shooting it down to his last tennis court! And now, after all I did for him, he leaves me tw'o tennis lots and three stumblebums!”
“People forget awful quick, honey,” said Goldie, patting his paw. “But maybe Steve can give you a lead.” The three of them looked at me, hopefully.
I buttered a roll and tried to look wise. The idea of Iron Mike Bergen being left a tennis court and a couple of pro’s was pretty entertaining.
Ordinarily, Mike wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But I’d heard that some of his less respectable enterprises weren’t going so well, and the new District Attorney was out to make himself a reputation. Perhaps Mike was more pressed than was generally supposed, and had to put every egg into the incubator. In a selfish sense, too, it occurred to me that this might be the line I could use for a tie-up with Mike on some proposition that would be above suspicion. With all Mike’s interests — wrestling, boxing, beer, shows, milk, hockey, real estate and games—it seemed possible that I could work myself into the right slot somewhere. So I knit my brows for quite a stretch before I began to spar.
"Well, Mike, tennis doesn’t happen to be all that you think it is, exactly. For one thing, it’s played by plenty of guys who sing bass and don’t have to wear chest toupees to look manly on the beach.”
Mike grunted. “Yeah. yeah, yeah. I saw pictures of ’em in a newsreel once. Big skinnies in high-waisted white pants. When they’d hit the onion into the hammock they’d shake their fists and holler, ‘Oh, sugar!’ ”
I let that pass and went on:
“What is more important, is that some of the best professionals pack people in at a $4.40-top house, and knock down over fifty grand a year.”
“Drinkin’ again,” said Thoiteen.
“You shouldn’t act funny with the Boss now, Steve. He ain’t in the mood. How would you feel if some lug had left you an acre of red mud in exchange for fifty G’s?”
“You’re right, for once.” growled Mike. “Now quit the ribbing,
Irish. What’s to do? Turn the place into a parking lot? What league can I sell those bums to, and what will they bring on the hoof?”
I thought fast. “Listen, Mike, will you do me one favor?”
“My mother taught me never to promise anything.”
“But this is for your own good. Will you go to one, just one, professional tennis match with me? There is one right around the—”
Mike looked more hurt than angry. “I would do almost anything for a pal, Irish, but that is one thing I would not do for anybody. It is more than I could stand. I would not even listen to it on the raddio, unless unconscious first.”
“That goes for me, too,” said Thoiteen.
“That means,” said Goldie, with a woman’s sweetness, “that you could listen to it practically any hour out of twenty-four.”
Thoiteen glared. “If you was not a lady, on your own say-so,” he remarked pleasantly, “and if the Eoss was not that w'ay about you, I w'ould give you such a slap on the biscuit that your head w'ould spin around ten times like a nowl’s.”
“Shut up, both of you,” grow'led Mike. He wras dropping into one of his depressed moods, w'hen even the bickering of the two could not lift the gloom. He raised a finger. “Check, Manny.”
TT WAS dark when we finally left Lindy’s. The Babs
glanced sharply about as we emerged, then dropped casually behind, one on each side.
“How about a movie?” suggested Goldie.
Mike merely grunted.
“Humph,” sniffed Goldie. She switched herself till her eighty-two wrist bangles rattled like a Chinese New Y’ear’s Despite my sharp rebuff, I still managed to steer the party rather aimlessly over to Eighth Avenue. I had no hopes of getting Mike to take in a pro tennis match, but some hidden Irish instinct kept me going.
Above the infernal din of motors, Madison Square Garden’s blazing marquee threw surrounding buildings into shadow. And right there, at that moment, Thoiteen pulled the switch without me lifting a finger. Squinting up at the big black letters in the glare, he snapped his fingers. “A fight, Boss—that’s what you need ! And we’re just in time for the main go.”
“Vines voisus Budge,” read Mike. “Who are those punks, anyway?”
“Maybe a coupla heavies from the Coast,” said Thoiteen. “Even if they’re lousy, we’ll collect a few laughs. What do you say, Chief?”
Mike shrugged. “What can I lose? I got all the trouble there is.”
I shoved along, grinning under my coat collar to think of the shock when they found themselves face to face with a tennis match. I didn’t figure it was my place to enlighten them at this point. Besides, I wouldn’t have missed it for what pretty people call a “pretty penny.” Besides, again, I liked tennis—Bill Tilden alone had put on many a show the Shuberts couldn’t have touched, for my money.
Thoiteen broke the trail, elbows as busy as they had ever been in his ring days. “Six, Dink.” he snapped at the ticket window. “For Mike.” Out popped the six tickets— and no cash went back. It’s funny, but nice thingsJike that were always happening to Mike Bergen. Once in the lobby, an usher pattered up. “Evening,'Mr. Bergen.”
“Never mind announcing me,” growled Mike, pulling down his brim. “I ain’t on the card tonight.”
We left the usher repeating, “Yes, Mr. Bergen,” and went through the doors into the huge amphitheatre. And right there the fun began.
“Sa-ay,” drawled Thoiteen, scratching his bristly head, “what goes on here, anyhow?” Mike’s mouth half-opened and stayed that way as he stared out over the crowd, clear down to the brightly lighted green court in the centre. His cigar finally expired, but he continued to stare.
“What the devil is this?” demanded Bab No. 1 over Mike’s shoulder. “Croquet or something?”
“Well, close these dim old eyes,” exclaimed Goldie. “Will you look at them sables?”
I couldn’t hold it any longer. I laughed till the tears ran. Mike measured me with a cold scrutiny.
“What’s so funny? Did you set up this sissy act just to rib me?”
I finally subsided under indignant stares. “No, I didn’t, cross my throat. But you may like it, Mike. These birds
are the two best pro’s in the world today. They’re hot."
“ You're saying it. But where do all these other geezers come from? They can’t all be friends and relatives, in on passes. Why ain’t they home, or at the movies, or something? Why are they killing time like this?”
“Because they’re nuts about tennis, Mike,” I assured him. “It’s really a great game. Takes skill, speed, endurance, guts.” Mike seemed not to hear. He was craning his neck—collar size eighteen—as an usher conducted us to seats in the second row, centre. Mike caught his arm. “Hey, buddy, what else is going on here tonight—you know, what’s the main show?”
“There she is, mister,” said the usher, jerking a thumb. “We had a couple of prelims, but these guys are the heavies.”
IKE frowned till his thick brows locked. He leaned -*■*■*• forward, elbows propped. Following the flight of the ball, his cigar rolled from one side of his turtle mouth to the other. At intervals he swivelled around to appraise the house with a practiced yet puzzled glance. Thoiteen’s gimlet eyes played like a burning glass upon the bare backs of the haut monde who graced Row AA, occasionally threatening to leap their sockets at a diamond dog collar or a string of square-cut greenies. Goldie bit her lips over the furs dangling, like so many dish rags, over the seats. As for the Babs—they gripped their derbies and indulged in hilarious finger pointings at the sleek gentry who followed the play so politely. The contrast of the ensemble was breathtaking.
“I still don’t get it,” Mike kept muttering. "It don’t add up.”
“Here,” I said. “I’ll give you a few pointers. That’s Vines serving now—”
“Serving what?” interrupted Mike crossly.
“The ball. To be good, it’s got to clear the net and land in this square here. The receiver takes it—”
“Receiver? You mean the fence, Irish?”
“No. The player who receives the service is called the receiver.”
“Nice going.” said Goldie. “Smart man who figured that one out.”
“Who is that fat floosie in the high chair, hollering ‘Forty Love?’ ” asked Mike.
“He is the official referee. ‘Forty Love’ means ‘Forty to nothing’ in favor of the man who is serving. And those men at the intersections of the lines are the official linesmen, who call ‘Good’ or ‘Out’ if the decision is close.”
“And who are they working for now—which one of those White Panties?”
“For neither,” I said. “They are picked by the Tennis Association.”
“Nuts!” said Mike Bergen. “You can’t tell me they’re not fixed. Everything’s fixed.”
“Not tennis. That just happens to be something you don’t know anything about, Uncle Mike.”
He grunted, and we watched for some minutes in silence. The ball pinged back and forth. Service aces went “plomp” against the green canvas backdrops. Agile ballboys swooped across the court, catching up a ball as a swallow spears a bug. The strategy, the swift change in tactics, the scorching drive and the deft trap shot—all these were little more than confusing motions to Mike. Once, when Budge chopped a short one that barely cleared the net and Vines raced in to scoop it over his head with a perfectly timed lob, Mike leaned forward expectantly. But when Budge tore back to smash it on the bounce for a clean passing shot, Mike removed his cigar and expectorated guardedly.
“Whyn’t that big guy reach right over the hammock and let him have it then? He could have laid him like a rug.”
I explained that opponents did not revert to violence upon one another; that Budge had been put into a most difficult situation, had extricated himself by a miracle shot, caught Vines by surprise, and won an exciting point.
“And nobody ever gets hurt or nothing?” he demanded. I assured him that such was generally the case, save for sprained ankles or exhaustion. Mike shook his head.
From that point on, his interest shifted from the gladiators to the crowd. He stood up to survey the back rows and the ordinarily dead spots behind the pillars. When spectators cried, “Down in front!” he retorted, “Nuts, buddy!” and blew them a lazy billow of smoke. When the head usher was summoned to eject him, that worthy grinned sheepishly, "Aw, please, Mr. Bergen, have a heart, will you?” and backed out.
The final blow descended when the victor tossed his racket aloft, vaulted the net, and pumped the hand of the loser. Then they posed for pictures. “Will you get a load of that? What’s he do next, Irish—give him taxi fare home?”
“If you should step off a trolley car an’ ask me,” volunteered Thoiteen, “the only-
excuse for cornin’ here is these dames.” In the lobby, Mike jerked a thumb. “You wait outside—I want to have a little talk with the ticket office. I’ve been guessing so wrong the past few months, it’s barely possible that I have booted another one.”
A WEEK passed without word from Mike. Then, just as the telephone company was about to come between us with an overdue bill and a pair of shears, Thoiteen’s rasp was heard. The Chief wanted me to drop up.
Mike Bergen’s establishment atop the C-hislewood Arms was, in a word, something. The fart that Mike owned the Chislewood—along with various assorted items of realty—conferred upon the owner a certain latitude of arrangement which would have turned the other tenants mauve with envy, had they known it. But Mike was seldom, if ever, seen in the ornate Moorish lobby with its dim lights and ankle-deep rugs. When Mike came home, his unobtrusive sedan purred its surcharged, all-steel body to a halt around the corner from the titled Russian doorman in the purple livery of the Chislewood. Preceded by Thoiteen and followed by the Babs, Mike would key his way through a metal door bearing the word “Service.” He would then step into a small elevator, press a button, and waft silently aloft through a shaft which opened on no floors save the roof. This door bore the words, “Trunks & Storage— No Admittance.”
A series of taps on its three-inch steel plates swung it aside and admitted one to the outer lobby of the Suite de Bergen. This layout, if I may be allowed the luxury of repetition, was just something else again. Room after room, its color note was chalkwhite—the décor currently affected by a Madison Avenue decorator whose establishment fell into Mike’s hands one evening after a prolonged session at the wheel. (One of Mike’s wheels.)
One of the features of the suite was a completely equipped shooting gallery. Behind its soundproof walls, the guests spent many a happy hour sniping away at small iron ducks and ping-pong balls which jiggled on jets of water. Mike himself occupied a room whose dimensions compared favorably with the Grand Central Terminal. The furnishings were a curious union of the decorator’s chaste efforts and Mike’s own tastes, which ran to old leather club chairs, boxing photos, oversize brass cuspidors, and rows of steel filing cabinets. The innumerable tiny pockmarks on walls and ceilings were made by air pistols, with which the gentlemen were wont to essay wing-shooting at some canaries presented by Goldie to Mike, which they surreptitiously released from their golden cages.
Beyond Mike’s domain, faintly redolent of cigarette smoke and i>et animals, an austere layout proclaimed the occasional tenancy of Mike’s mouthpiece—Mr. De Witt Clinton Fink. Mr. Fink—“Stinky” Fink to intimates only—was a product of the same lower West Side neighborhood which had spawned Mr. Bergen. They had slugged their way up—the hard way. Until today, the name of De Witt Clinton Fink was synonymous with the word “acquittal” among top trial lawyers of the land.
Adjoining Mr. Fink’s pale blue quarters were several sanctuaries for friends who arrived out of breath, and the haunts of Thoiteen and the Babs. All in all. its like was not to be found within the confines of Manhattan Island, which is to say, the world.
I entered the lobby, then, on this particular afternoon, and strode to the elevators—imposing cages panelled in Chislewood purple and gold. The astute manager, whom I knew well, looked me straight in the eye without flicking a lash. Mike’s orders. None of the staff ever evinced the slightest recognition of anyone visiting the Boss. I spun up to the twelfth, as high as the regular lifts went; then walked around a corner, through a door, and up narrow stairs for two more flights. A rap, and the cold eye of Bab No. 1 appeared at a glass peephole.
"Hahya?” he grinned. “Hey, Louie— look who’s here.”
Bab No. 2 looked up from absorbed scrutiny of Claudette Colbert’s four-star gams in a movie rag. In his left hand he held a half-eaten banana. “We-ell,” he said, a grin lighting his terrifying pan. “If it ain’t the Toikey ! Mebbe we better frisk his hat, Jake. I hear they’s a lot of the queer floating around.” This was their favorite trick, of which they never tired. They would flash phony detective badges, pretend to search your hat for counterfeit
bills, and tear the hat solemnly to pieces.
“No, you don’t!” I said, stuffing mine under my coat. “Where’s Mike?”
AT IKE was reclining on the back of his neck in the most broken-down of all the decrepit leather chairs. A silk robe of rainbow hues encased his great hulk.
I sat down and waited. You can’t hurry Uncle Mike. But when he gets ready to speak his piece, it’s usually letter perfect. That’s a lot to say of anyone. After ten minutes Mike said:
“Irish, I’ve been thinking about this tennis business. It still makes less sense than anything I ever saw. But it certainly adds up to pack a house like the other night. I’ve decided to look into it. Who is the whistle man on the thing?”
I thought back to the days when I had covered sports. “Well, there are two promoters who control most of the pro’s— like those we saw the other night. But the pro’s all come up from the amateur ranks, after they’ve become big tournament attractions. The top ones, of course, rank one, two, three in the national ranking—and they play on the Cavis Cup team.”
“Who blows the whistle for them?” “The American Tennis Association. A lot of studies head that up. The head stuffy is the president, Mr. G. Warfield Edgerton, III.”
“What is this ‘Thoid’ stuff?”
“All that I have ever been able to discover,” I said, “is that it means the owner once had a father and a grandfather. But it goes with the man; G. Warfield is a snoot. He and his crony, Mr. Carter Holloway, practically control the amateur game. They and the member clubs take all the gate receipts.”
Mike knit his brows, blew one of his truck-tire smoke rings. “They’re the guys to take, then. Sounds too good to be true. Why haven’t they been pried oil their perch and given the old heave-o before?” “Because,” I said, “tennis is a very peculiar game, as you will find out. It’s social. The same old crowd that controls the big country clubs is still in the saddle. They love to strut about with their badges, and have their pictures taken, and shush the spectators. They think the press, which builds up their shows, should be confined to Alcatraz.”
“I’ll whittle them down,” said Mike with a confidence I did not altogether share. “All right, then. I’ll pay a call on King Warfield the Thoid. I will sell him my tennis lots and my stumblebums. Or I will make him a proposition to cut me in on the racket, with my own stable.”
I looked my bewilderment.
“Listen, Stupid,” said Mike patiently. “Perhaps I might even want to buy a stable of good tennis players—same as rasslers or pugs. I rpight be forced to enter ’em into the racket, just in case this old guy gets tough and refuses to take what I’ve got off my hands.”
My heart fell. “Then you won’t be needing me, Mike?”
“Most likely not, Irish. But don’t join the Foreign Legion until I make that call on Warfield the Thoid. Just stick around a day or two.”
Y\ /'HEN Mike Bergen got really heated * * up about a thing, people took off their coats for blocks around. The very next day he and Thoiteen presented themselves at the sumptuous Rockefeller Building offices of G. Warfieid Edgerton, III. As they entered, Thoiteen’s eyes popped at the girl behind the desk. He even removed his derby—a top and unconscious tribute.
She was a sweet job, Mary Edgerton. Not very big, but what there was, was okay for Ziegfeld. Maybe twenty, with a full free line to her that somehow had its own rhythm when she walked or when she stood still, or even when she sat behind a reception desk, bored with the inaction of her uncle's insurance business. Selfcontained and easy, with a cool insolence in her grey eyes that Mike liked, and a softly rounded chin which said, for all its softness, ‘T11 handle that, thank you.” At the moment, she was listening to a tall tanned youth who lounged familiarly on the edge of the desk. He had a mop of yellow hair, and was handsome in a petulant sort of way. He glanced around, then resumed.
“I’d have had Ned Ross in straight sets in the Texas final, but my shoulder went bad on me and it took five. Then we drove over to Florida and I copped the Lake Vail Invitation.”
“Excuse me, Hal.” said Mary. “But we’ve got company.”
“Let ’em wait,” drawled the youth. “After that, up to Hot Springs.” “Please, Hal,” said the girl again. Mike noted the faint danger signals appearing in the smooth cheeks. “You’ll have to wait —what is it, please?”
Harold Farnham, America’s number one, from the Coast, stood up with a poor grace. He looked the visitors over again with his rather prominent blue eyes, shrugged into his polo coat, and strolled to the door. “I’ll pick you up at six then. And please be ready.”
“I’ll try to,” said Mary meekly, but her cheeks were now definitely pink. “Yes?” “Sorry to be intruding,” said Mike with his rare Sunday smile; the one that knocked over mobsters and self-possessed young girls and kids who could hardly walk. “But I would like to see Mr. Edgerton. ‘Mr. G. Warfield Edgerton the Thoid,’ ”
Mary looked up into that big tough relief map with its scars and its lines and its wads of muscle along the jaws. Then suddenly she smiled back—Uncle Mike just had a gift with people he liked. “I ought to stall around and ask you what you want and put you off,” she said with a little laugh. “But the young man was so —well, impatient, that I haven’t the heart to, now.”
“If you don’t like him, miss.” said Thoiteen, “I could prob’ly catch him outside and tap him on the ear.”
Mary shook her dark curls. “No, thank you. I wouldn’t put you to so much trouble. Besides, we’re what—”
“Trouble, me eye,” said Thoiteen, breathing hard through the detours of his nose. “It’s a positive pleasure, lady.” “Outside,” grunted Mike.
When the door closed, Mike stood looking down at the girl. “You know,” he said, in his quiet, even voice, “I’d like to know why a dame like you-T mean, a girl-even lets that blond lollvpop play in the same league with you. What’s the tie-up, unless I’m intruding?”
"You are intruding,” said Mary, looking him in the eye. “You’re much too nosy.” “Oh-oh.” Mike dealt himself an uppercut. Then he chuckled. “I like girls that talk back. You’re a right one, and you don’t have to let me in on anything.” “Thanks,” said Mary. “I’ve known that all the time. Now. if we both know it. we’ll probably get along all right. Do you want to see Mr. Edgerton about insurance?”
Mike thought that over. The idea amused him. “Why, yes. I guess you would call it that. The more I think of it, the better I like it. You might call it ‘Tennis Insurance.’ ”
“Oh,” said Mary, eyes lighting, “are you interested in tennis, Mr.—er—”
“Er—Bergen.” said Mike, expecting her to collapse under the desk. But she did nothing of the sort. It became evident that the name of Bergen meant about as much here as a cry for help in a concentration camp. “Weil, I’m sort of interested in swinging a deal on some courts and stuff with Mr. Edgerton,” he said.
“You’ll love tennis,” said Mary. “It’s a great game—except for some of the people in it, and some of the things they do. That young man who was in here, Harold Farnham. is the best player in the country.”
“You don’t say!” exclaimed Mike, a veritable sponge for information “Who pays him off?”
Mary laughed. “He’s just a—well, just a touring tennis player. On the side, he sells come bonds and stocks or something for his uncle. Mr. Holloway, the chairman of the Cup Committee. Only I wish he’d start looking for a real job before he starts to slip. He’s really not as bad as he appeared—but the people he goes with have spoiled him a little. I’m afraid.”
"Afraid?” repeated Mike. “You ought to be scared to death, lady. Well, I won’t take any more of your time. Could you fix me up an audience with King Warfield the Thoid now?”
Mary chuckled. “Sure, I’ll announce you. Right in there, please. And don't be scared of him; his bark is worse than his bite.”
' I '11ROUGH the years, Mr. Edgerton had acquired a concept of breeding which was compounded of a slight knowledge of literature, a large wardrobe, and a steady flow of pleasant anecdotes. Pink and white and well fed, he wore his concept smartly, as he wore his clothes.
Without moving his head. Mike had instantly photographed every detail of the big sunny room—its fireplace, its old pine panelling from a dozen hidden-away New England farmhouses, its ship models and Willard clock. He advanced.
“Mr. Edgerton,” he said pleasantly, “my name is Bergen—Mike Bergen. I understand that you are the Whistle Man in this tennis business.”
“Well,” said Mr. Edgerton with a deprecatory wave, “the game’s a hobby of mine. I’ve given it what my family sometimes terms—hah hah—the best years of my life.”
“Right,” said Mike. “And the game hasn’t done so had by you. Now, I’m not the bird to fly in the bushes when I know the way home, so I’ll deal ’em face up.” Mr. Edgerton stared, sat up straighter. “I’m afraid I don’t follow you.”
“That,” grinned Mike, “is because I haven’t said anything yet. But here it is: I’ve fell heir to a couple of tennis courts and three pork-and-bean pro’s. I don’t want ’em. It’s your racket. So I’m putting ’em on the block. What’s your best, bid?’’ Mr. Edgerton’s eyes bulged. He tugged vaguely at his white mustache.
“Do I I understand that you are trying to sell me some tennis players and courts? Is that what you are trying to say?” Mike nodded. “To a hair. And no reasonable offer refused, as they say. If you happen to have a full stable yourself at the moment, you might cut a pal in on the deal.”
Mr. Edgerton thought he was dealing with a lunatic, however substantialappearing a one.
“Unfortunately.” he managed, “gentlemen who engage in amateur tennis are not interested in such ‘deals,’ as you call them. I cannot consider it— any part of it. That is all.” His tone, more than the words, slapped Mike’s face.
“Now listen, Pop.” said Mike. “I ain’t interested in all them Harvard words. I got a proposition and—”
“Get out of here!” snapped Mr. Edgerton. “Before I have you thrown out.” Mike rose slowly. “Haw kay, Pop. For the last time, then, I’m offering you a partnership arrangement: a fifty-split on the gate, and complete protection if you want to play ball.”
Mr. Edgerton rose too, trembling with anger. “Protection from what, may I ask?” Mike spread his hands, raised his great shoulders. “From everything. From strikes—from stink bombs in your grandstands — from picketing — from player walkouts—and from being maybe pushed around yourself.”
Mr. Edgerton’s pink cheeks became purple. He pressed a button and a burly special officer appeared. He shook a finger at Mike. “Throw this man out. Collins! He’s a gangster or a lunatic, or both ! And you—don’t you dare set foot in here again, or I’ll have you locked in the Tombs.”
Continued from page 33 Mr. Edgerton choked, appearing on the verge of a stroke. “You cheap crook!” he yelled. “You bum! You—”
“Haw kay, Pop,” said Mike. “Only I think you’re off on the wrong foot.”
He then indulgently allowed Mr. Collins to shove him out the door, unmolested. But from that moment, his mind was made up.
WELL,” said Mary, “that was short and sweet.”
“Not too sweet,” said Mike. “You know this game must be softening me up. Any other time I’d have give that old Rumple-puss such a kick in the pants his shirt tail would fly up his back like a windowshade. Begging your pardon.” “Why?” said Mary, stifling hysterics. “Because,” confided Mike, “he’s a wrong guy, and I know one when I see him. Do you know he’s running this tennis racket thing, huh?”
“I know something about it,” Mary said. “It’s really his worst habit.”
“Hall ! Do you like the way in which he and a few other stiffs get a stranglehold on the birds that play it, and run only those entries they want in each event? Do you?” Mary looked thoughtful.
“Finally, do you like to see what you say is a good game run for the benefit of guys who wear barber-pole hatbands, and are in hock to the bondholders of their country clubs?”
“What do you propose to do about it?” Mike gave her a wink—the long, slowone. “Pa-lenty! Only I’m not going off half-cocked. When things are ready, a lot of people are going to get a lot of new ideas about this so-called game.”
“Meanwhile,” said Mary, “I’ll be happy to put in a good word for you here.”
“No thanks, sister. You just sit tight. But you’re a right one—I’ll say that. And why you waste your time sitting around here with that old—hey, hold on ! I got an idea. Stand up.”
“Let’s have a look at your gams.” Mike noted the danger signals flying the clear cheeks again. “Aw, say, don’t get me wrong now. Just stand up for a minute.” Suddenly. Mary laughed. And when Mary laughed, everybody within earshot heard it, and smiled for the hearing. She stood up.
“Turn around.” Mary turned. “A hunnerd per cent,” said Mike. “You’re in.” “In where?”
“The Pearly Gates, one of my night spots. I can get you seventy-five a week— maybe more. Give you a plume and a handful of spangles and you’ll knock them out-of-town alligators for a set of gilt wishbones, sister. Call me tomorrow.” Mary looked wildly around. “I—I’ve— I’ve got a contract here.”
“Send it over. There ain’t a contract made that Stinky Fink can’t break.”
“But—-but I still couldn’t do it,” protested Mary. “My—-my mother depends on what I make here. I promised her I’d stay. And I really don’t mind it, except I don’t like a lot of the things Mr. Edgerton does about tennis.”
“Well—haw kay,” Mike said reluctantly. “You’re the doctor. But if you’d like a good spot in one of my places—say, as cashier or hostess—give me a buzz. By the way, what’s your name?”
“Mary,” she said.
Mike held out his hand. “I always liked that name; it sounds kind of, well— honest. Mine’s Mike. You may hear me called a lot of other things too, but it’s still Mike. Well, I’ll be seeing you, Mary.” “Good-by—Mike.”
The door closed, to open almost at once. “And don’t take any guff from old Rumple-puss. If he gets fresh, call me, and I’ll have him took apart like a dollar watch. So long.”
MIKE called me over the very next morning. He had been getting madder and madder, the more he thought things over.
“They’re not going to get away with this.” he growled like a mastiff. “Uncle Mike isn’t taking any more guff from those college-try gents. Telling me I can’t cut in on any game I want! Leaving me tennis courts and white panties I never seen! Shoving me out of doors before I’ve said my piece! Irish, I'm going to have the best tennis players in this country, and I’m going to build ’em up just like I built up my muggs in other lines. I’ll show ’em.” “You don’t want to take over some well-known amateurs?”
“Not on your life! Let Edgerton have the old ones. I’m going to show him he hasn’t got any monopoly on talent. I’m going to start from scratch. I’m going to dig up the best two unknowns that anybody knows about, see? Guys that nobody ever heard of, outside their own famblies.”
“Sounds swell, Mike. But how you going to work it?”
He paced a bit more, brows locked. When Mike really got down to thinking, you could almost hear the gears. He got up the hill too. He whirled on me. “Who knows more about tennis players than anybody else living, Irish?”
I thought a minute. “Lefty Epstein.” I said at last. “He’s run public courts and bet on matches with big gamblers for years. He knows—”
Mike stared, eyes popping. “Lefty Epstein? We’ve got him already! Here, wait till I look at these papers—yes, here it is. He owned these courts until he bet Fishface Graham his courts against a wad of dough. And Fishface took him. Well, roll me over!”
“You’re kidding,” I said. But there it was, in black and white. “Why, I know Lefty—used to play on his courts as a kid. Big fat gent who plays in a black sweater and smokes a cigar. The pro’s used to say he knew every trick in the bag.”
Mike cracked me on the back, grinning. “And to think we got him, right in the household! Ain’t life a Christmas tree, though?” Then he sobered. “Haw kay, that’s great for the kickoff. You go see him. Tell him I’m hiring him for a year, at his own figure. Fire the other tramps with two months pay. Tell Epstein to dig up the two greatest unknowns in this Bloomer Girls’ game. Bring ’em to me, all expenses paid. By gosh, we’ll put some guts into this racket rhumba, Irish !”
“You bet,” I said, rising. “But where do I fit into this picture frame, Mike?” He looked at me, a twinkle in his little eyes. “It’s quite a step down from prpmoting the Meat Shows, Irish, but if you want to hit the drum for Bergen’s Tennis Racket Enterprises, the job is yours.” “Great,” I said.
“Add twenty-five a week to what you’ve been getting. Plus a big bonus the day we open at the Garden—we’ll work that out. Are you on?”
“On and swinging,” I laughed as we shook hands.
TWO HOURS later, I was inserting our unique problems into the large rightangled ear of Lefty Epstein. I finally located him—black sweater, black cigar and all—in an uptown car barn which he had turned into an indoor tennis court for the winter months.
We were sitting at a table in a cubbyhole which Lefty called his office. Occasionally, strange men would straggle through, part a green baize curtain, and presently emerge naked and dripping from a shower. Then they would change into street clothes, say “Charge it. Lefty,” and disappear. Lefty carried his accounts under the old baseball cap which he never removed, and never lost anything by it.
“It sounds screwy,” he said. “If I hadn’t known you as a kid, I’d have your head tested for pinwheels or Roman candles.”
I tossed a slip of pale blue paper on the table. “Sounds screwy to me too. Lefty. All but Mr. Mike Bergen’s blank cheque here—already signed.”
Lefty looked and whistled. “Well, that’s good enough for me. I don’t know where we re going but we’re on our way. With a blank cheque from Mike Bergen, I could probably deliver the Cavis Cup teams of England, France, Germany and Japan. You’re sure he only wants two tennis players?”
“Two—but they’ve got to be tops. And they’ve got to be sleepers. We want the two original Men Nobody Knew.”
“It may be kind of tough,” said Lefty slowly. “But I’ve got an idea I can turn ’em up.”
“Oh—in a week, say. And you couldn’t,
er—let us say—”
“Sure,” I said, reaching for my wallet. “Here’s three hundred on account, just to show you we’re in the game to stick.” Lefty’s eyes bugged. He counted the bills, sighed, “Three yards it is—and don’t wake me, mummy, till it’s time for school.”
I didn’t hear from Lefty again until six days had passed. By then, I was near a nervous wreck from Mike’s everlasting enquiries. He buzzed after me like a fly in a monkey house.
“Where’s my tennis players? What’s holding us up? Get those guys up here before I send the Babs after them!” Day and night; you’d have thought he hadn’t another interest in the world. Then, when I had taken to slinking around corners and eating out in One-Arm Charleys, Lefty phoned. He had bagged the pair he wanted.
“Great!” I exclaimed. “Bring ’em up to Mike’s this noon. Tell ’em not to talk too much, or start showing off.”
Lefty chuckled. “I don’t think there’s much danger. They’re swell kids, but I doubt if they start chalking up this here Weinstein theery on Mike’s walls. You know what tennis players are today.” Lefty arrived with two healthy-looking youngsters. The husky dark one, Barney Chellowitz, I remembered vaguely to have seen before. He was Lefty’s general assistant, and Lefty had taught him all the tricks whenever they had a spare hour or so. He looked lazy, and he was lazyvery deceptive until he had a bat in his hand. Then he came to like an uncapped volcano. Lefty used to let him play the top-flight boys, but he never let him win their dough. That wouldn’t have been good business. For the top-flight boys who patronized Lefty came pretty much to show off. They didn’t like to take it— except from one another, and as little of that as possible.
The other kid was tall and wiry as a buggy whip—if you can remember that far back. He had reddish hair, and a dusting of freckles, and nice eyes. Billy Goodall came from one of those small South Carolina towns with one drugstore, one movie, and eight traffle lights. Billy wanted to own the drugstore, which belonged to his uncle Mart. Lefty had heard of him through Scott Whipple, who had taken a scandalous lacing from Bill in some minor tournament when travelling north one spring.
“Delivery on the hoof, eh?” grinned Thoiteen, letting us in. “Right this way, please—Mr. Böigen is expecting you.”
YY/E ENTERED, Bill tripping over a YV scaie model of a new slot machine whose inventor claimed a profit of eightyfive per cent each time the lever dropped. Mike was sprawled in his huge leather chair.
“How’d you boys like to make some dough?” Mike said. “Some real dough. I mean?”
“Mighty well, Mr. Bergen,” smiled Goodall. “If it’s honest, of course.”
“I’d like it anyway,” said Chellowitz with disarming Czecho-Slovakian frankness. “I’ve been engaged to a girl named Rosie up in the Bronx for five years now, and her old man is beginning to think I’m just hanging around for the grub and to admire his beard.”
“And you, Epstein?”
“The name,” said Lefty simply, “is Epstein. Proceed from there.”
“Haw kay. But before we put the bibs up I want to see a workout. They’re having a bike race or something at the Garden today, so I can’t get that. Where’ll we show, Irish?”
"Lefty's car barn would do, only it’s being painted. Of course, the ideal place would be an armory, but we couldn’t have it to ourselves.”
“Why not?” demanded Mike. “Who runs those dumps when the wrestlers ain't in ’em?”
“The State,” I said. “You know, the National Guard.”
“And who runs the National Guard?”
“Why—General Sibbernsen. He’s a big lawyer, downtown.”
“Get Stinky Fink on the phone.” ordered Mike. “Hello, Stinky? Now listen here ...”
Fifteen minutes later we were careening toward the nearest armory. Then the two boys and Lefty took the court, with several acres of floor space stretching out to the rifle racks along the shadowed walls. Mike turned on me.
“Y'ou get in there and pitch too. It don’t look right, two to one. Besides, it’ll keep you from getting fat.”
I got some oversize togs from an awed assistant, and it didn’t take me long to see that Lefty’s boys were very hot indeed. Even Mike began to get the idea. His little eyes showed occasional glints when Bill or Barney whaled a forehand past me. or killed a lob with a swash that would have knocked the horns off an Elk. He wound up by making Thoiteen don sneakers, then slipped Lefty Epstein ten bucks to paste him in the pantry with a setup. I thought Mike and Goldie, who had come along with him, would die laughing. Then he sent the others home, and we sat down to talk. When we got up. things were all set.
“I still think that’s a lot of dough to give those kids, Mr. Bergen, just for playing tennis,” said Lefty.
I held up a finger. “It’s not for playing tennis—remember that. We don’t want any touch of the pro on these boys till we’re up there where we can cut it down by the yard. I want you to make that very clear to them, understand? It’s your job to travel with them and handle them the way we tell you.”
“They’ll get it,” said Lefty. “They’re nice kids, and they’ve got good heads. They don’t want to be no tennis bums. All they want is to hit the top, make what they can out of the pro stuff, and then go to work. Goodall has got his berth all made up; Chellowitz wants to open a haberdashery and get someone else to run it.”
Lefty smiled and waved his cigar in a wide lazy gesture. “Me? I just want to own some courts, instead of manage them, and then play doubles when I feel like it. For dough. I guess I’m spoilt for hard work.”
We took a drive through the cold winter sunshine of Central Park. When we got back to the Chislewood, there was a cozy little scene on. The radio was whanging. Thoiteen and Barney were playing the slot machine. Bill Goodall, looking pretty scared, was scrooched in a corner of the couch and Goldie was giving him her Personality Development Course. Mike got it all in a glance.
“School dismissed for the day,” he announced. “You, Bill, stick around. I want to tell you something. Lefty, you work out with them every day from now on. You can have the whole armory to yourself if you want it. I’m expecting you to handle these boys just the way you’d handle a couple of crack lightweights on the way up. No drinking, no smoking, no girling around. Get it?”
“First time up,” said Lefty. “You can count on me. Boss. You’re giving us more of a break than we ever expected, short of winning the Irish Sweeps. And we’ll hit the line for Bergen till the last white chip is passed! Come on, Barney.”
When they left, Mike turned. “You, Thoiteen. You work out with the boys every morning—you’re getting a pod on you like an alderman.” He turned to Bill. “Now, son. I want you to drop up to old Rumple-puss Edgerton’s office in a day or two. There’s a pretty smart girl who sits outside there, stalling off the callers. Have a quiet little chat with her—name’s Mary. Take her out if you want to and buy her anything you think she’d like. Sound her out. If she seems sympathetic, tell her I’d like her to act as my undercover dame up there.”
Bill leaned forward, brown eyes shining. “You mean—like a secret agent, sort of? The kind you read about in books?”
Mike kept a straight face. “You got it Tell her you come straight from Mike Bergen, and that I’m ready to pay her plenty to keep her ears open and tip me off on things.”
“All right.” Bill laughed nervously. “But I’m not much of a hand with girls, Mr. Bergen. Mr. McRuddy here could probably sell her the idea a lot better.”
“This bit of old Irish lace?” jeered Mike, referring to me. “Why, she wouldn’t give him shelf room. No. You’re the man. I’m really doing you a big favor—how about it, Steve?”
I assured Bill that such was indeed the case. Then we sent him home, and drank to the success of the Tennis Crusade.
THINGS moved fast after that. But still Uncle Mike wasn’t satisfied. He was always trying to figure out more ways in which to hip]X)drome the thing. He’d go over to the a mory every day to watch his stable practice. He’d smoke one big cigar after another, pace around in the shadows, and scowl over at the court ablaze under the floodlights. Whenever he had an idea, he’d jot it down.
He had plenty of little ones, and I kept feeding him others. But the big whizzbang didn’t come until about a month later, and I’m proud to say that I helped to mother-hen it.
We were sitting in one of Mike’s night spots—Mike, Goldie, Thoiteen, Lefty and I. The Babs were at a table near the door, chuckling at having pulled the hat trickon the new doorman and surveying the customers for another likely victim. Mike was thinking, paying no heed to the beautiful new South Sea decorations or the Hawaiian musicians.
“We still need something big to break the thing. Lefty says that in another five or six months these kids will be unbeatable. That’s haw kay. But if we must start playing them around the Celery Circuit, they’ll still be no more than a couple of Jaspers—win, lose, or draw. We’ve got to figure out a way to crack page one with them, and then keep ’em up there.”
“Right,” I said. “Why don’t we take a look at other sports? What makes the big attractions in each one? Take boxing —what pulls the biggest gate?”
“The biggest purse,” said Epstein the cynic.
“No. The invasion of a foreigner. Look at Firpo, Camera, Carpentier, Schmelling, Farr. That gets the home folks steamed up—they rally round the flag. Same thing with pololook at how the English and the Argentines pack the stands.”
“Keep goin.” said Mike dreamily. “And stop leering at them native dancers— they’re Abe Goldfarb’s Whizzerettes and as white as I am.”
“Whiter,” said Goldie, and patted his hand.
“As for the wrestlers—where would the game be if you didn’t hatch out a new Indian Chief or Irish Crusher every week?” “On its back.” said Thoiteen. “Only you know. Mac, those monickers are strickly phony. Why, this new Turk, Awful Ali Assim, is a Jewish boy named Slabchellowitz. We was in the same school in Brooklyn.”
“You’d be there yet,” said Goldie, "only the school burned down.”
“Shut up, all of you,” barked Mike. “I’m thinking.”
He was, too. Chin on fist, deep-set little eyes half closed under beetling brows. The smoke from his cigar curled up into the noisy air of the place. Steel guitars whined and sobbed, stirring up sad memories of every girl you’d ever loved, and lost. Goldfarb’s Eighth Avenue Hawaiians swayed and moaned and shook their grass skirts. Through it all. Mike Bergen sat motionless. Finally, he enquired: “What sort of a place is this Hawaii, Irish? Don’t they play this goofy tennis game down there?”
“I suppose they do,” I said. “They play most other sports. I don’t remember ever having heard of a good Hawaiian tennis player, but there's no law against it. And you know, Mike, I’m getting a great idea—”
“I’ve got it,” said Mike, “right by the tail. Pull up close here, and get a load of this ...”
Three hours later, we had the thing pretty much on paper. Lefty sighed.
“Boss, when Barney’s Rosie hears about this, she’ll chase me out into the ocean till my hat floats! Barney’s never been west of the Hudson, or south of Coney Island. And as for Bill Goodall—”
“Well?” snapped Mike. “What about him?”
“He and that Mary are, as Winchell puts it, beginning to get ‘that way,’ ” said Lefty. “Funny thing how Goodall, who’s Southern as fried catfish, came up here and bowled over a girl who’s been around as much as Mary Edgerton.”
“Mary who?’’ screamed Mike. Lefty looked at me.
“That’s right, Mike,” I said, “and there’s no use bursting an artery over it. Young Bill found out her name the first time you sent him up there—which is more than some wiser gents took the trouble to do. We didn’t see any need of telling you about it, since things were going so well.” “Well?” hollered Mike, sticking the wrong end of his cigar in his mouth. “What’s well about it? She’ll tell old Rumple-puss all about us. that’s what she’ll do !”
I patted his arm. “No, she won’t. She’s not that sort. Besides. Mary doesn’t like a lot of things her uncle does in this tennis racket. She’s promised me, personally, to string along with us and not tip our hand. I 've had a few nice cozy sessions with her.” “Holy Catawba!” moaned Mike. “And me offering her a job in a place like this! No wonder she laughed.”
Goldie chuckled. “I’ll bet she had hysterics the minute you left, Mike. It’s a wonder you didn’t scare her to death, you big ape!”
“She isn’t the kind that scares,” Mike said. “And she’d never heard of me. Now you say she’s arm-in-arming it with Bill?” “Oh, nothing official,” I said soothingly. “They just seem to be mutually congenial; I imagine that Bill’s kind of a relief from a lot of the slick boys she’s used to.”
Thoiteen nodded. “Yeah. Like that walkin’ cream puff who was on her desk when we got there, Mike. You know, that Farnham egg. I’d like to see Bill put the drill into him all right.”
“He’ll do no drilling except for dough, and on my orders!” snapped Mike. “What’s more, I think it’s time to take those birds in hand, before I find myself playin’ net in a mixed doubles game!” He waved a waiter, tore the check in quarters, dropped it on the floor. We got up. stretching—it had been a long session. At the door, the Babs joined us. Mike whipped up his fur collar against the sleet.
“Now then, do you all know where you’re going?” We nodded. “Haw kay, then. Come over tomorrow noon and we'll start writing cheques. G’night.”
Our Tennis Crusade was launched.
To be Continued