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INCIDENT AT THE PYLONS
“The Hotel Disaster”
SERGEANT GUSTAV GUSTAVSON – Canoe Cop
I know I shouldn’t have been listening last night, Sven, but I was right there in the outer office, and the discussion got rather loud. So what else could I do?
“Don’t worry about it, Gustav, ol’ buddy. If this… discussion concerns those so-called Canoe Cops Lars and Uli, I gotta hear it. So… Dish with the delectable details!”
Well, as I say, I was sitting in Canoe Cops Headquarters, filling out some paperwork—you know, from that near drowning that happened at the end of my shift, just before sundown. I would have gone home hours previously, but I… took a break for dinner.
“Took a break to spend some time mooning over that waitress you like at the Attic Malt Shop, you mean! Maggie Drummond is some looker! Or did you just go out searching for that weird girl you thought you rescued in your canoe, the day before yesterday? I gotta say, ol’ buddy, I’m beginning to think you might just have had a touch of sunstroke, there. You even got me thinking I’d seen her, yesterday morning.”
I’m beginning to wonder about her reality myself… But that doesn’t matter right now, Sven. Nor does it matter that I had indeed, as you surmised, had dinner at the Malt Shop yesterday evening.
Right now, the only piece of information pertinent to this tale is that I’m sitting at my desk, filling out paperwork, when those oafs—Lars and Uli—burst into Canoe Cops HQ. They’re soaked to the skin, and both of them are panting like they’ve just posted record times in the Phantom Lake Paddle-Patrol-Marathon.
“Where’s the chief?” Lars blurts at me.
“On vacation, if you’ll remember,” I reply.
“Cut the stuff, old man,” Uli snaps. “You know what Lars means! Who’s the boss on duty tonight?”
“I believe Lieutenant Agar resides at the top of the roster this eve.”
“Well, get him on the phone, or radio, or whatever!” Lars commands, with his usual lack of politeness. “We have a situation!”
“What kind of situation?” I enquire.
“Mind your own lutefisk,” Uli tells me. “We ain’t gonna discuss this with no underlings.”
Honestly, Sven, I’m well aware that this duo are of Danish origin, but if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Uli learned his English from old gangster movies.
“As it happens, there’s no need to call the Lieutenant,” I inform the pair. “By coincidence, he’s in his office at this very moment.”
“Why didn’t you just tell us that?!” Uli snarls.
And with that, he and Lars storm across the station, throw open the door to the commander’s office, and barge inside without so much as a knock.
“First class all the way with those two, eh Gustav?”
Hmm. Yes, Sven. As you say. First class for Danes, at any rate.
“Lieutenant, you will not believe this,” Lars begins. He’s babbling so loudly that I could have heard him even if he hadn’t, in his hurry, left the office door ajar.
“What am I not going to believe?” Lieutenant Agar asks, and his exasperated tone tells me that, already, Lars and Uli are trying his patience.
“We seen it!” Uli puts in. “Down at the shore, near Talbot’s Waterfront Hotel.”
“Seen… I mean saw… what?”
“A mummy!” Lars exclaims. “Bigger than life-size and sopping wet!”
“A mummy?” Lieutenant Agar replies, with less skepticism than I would have expected. “And what was this… mummy doing?”
“At first, when we spotted the thing, it was just lumbering down the lakeshore, you know?” Lars says. “Uli and I were just paddling along, following our usual night patrol procedures.”
“We thought we was seeing things!” Uli explains.
“Ya,” Lars agrees. “And then I was thinking: Maybe this is some kind of summer-time joke—ha ha, very funny—though it is a little early in the season for that.”
“Yeah…” Lieutenant Agar mutters—which I wouldn’t have caught at all if the door had closed properly. “That’s what Nikki and I thought, too…”
“What was that you said, Lieutenant?” Lars asks.
“Never mind,” Lieutenant Agar replies. “Go on…”
“So Uli and I, we couldn’t believe it,” Lars says. “So we paddle in closer, trying to catch up with this monster-thing.”
“Ya. The suspect’s dead, I guess, so it don’t move so fast,” Uli adds.
“Before we are able to reach it, though,” Lars says, “the suspect tromps under the piers—you know what I mean, Lieutenant—those big pylons that support the Talbot’s uber-structure.”
“Superstructure,” the lieutenant corrects, but the dim-witted Danes forge ahead.
“That makes the guy harder to follow, ya know?” says Uli. “’Cause now we gotta paddle between the piers and such, and there ain’t much headroom.”
“But Uli and I, we keep at it, chief,” Lars quickly points out. “We didn’t train all our lives to be the Best Canoe Cops in the World to just become girly men when the going gets rough!”
“No,” Lieutenant Agar agrees. “I’m sure you didn’t.”
“We keep paddling between the pylons,” Lars continues, “but it’s hard to spot anything there, ’cause the place is dark and full of shadows.”
“Ya, dark shadows!” Uli corroborates. “I whip out my flashlight, but that weren’t much help, either.”
“Then the both of us hear this awful creaking,” says Lars. “It reminds me of sounds that I heard up north, in the timber camps, when I was small; it’s like the crack a big tree makes, before a lumberjack fells it.”
“I heard it, too,” Uli says, “and I knowed it meant no good. ‘Let’s blow this joint,’ I said to Lars, ‘before the whole megillah falls on us!’”
“I did not want to, but I was forced to agree,” Lars says. “That sound always means you must duck and cover as fast as you can, even if nobody shouts ‘Timber!’ So, Uli and I, we paddle like mad out from under the pier and back into the open water on Phantom Lake.”
“But we seen something as we went!” Uli declares.
“What did you see?” Lieutenant Agar asks.
“Uli and I, we saw this mummy,” Lars says. “It was standing under the pier, like Stephen Reeves in one of those Sampson movies. He’s got his big hands pressed up against a pylon on either side, and this mummy, he’s pressing with all his strength. And snap! Both timbers crack near in half!”
“Then he slogs to another set o’ pylons and does it again!” Uli puts in excitedly.
“Snap! Snap! SNAP!” Lars says, his voice getting louder each time. “Until…”
“Until what?” asks Lieutenant Agar.
“CRASH!” Lars and Uli both exclaim. I can see their shadows through the frosted glass on the office door, and as they say it, both give a little jump and then come down with a thud!
“Crash!?” Lieutenant Agar says, growing alarmed.
“Yeah, Crash!” Lars repeats. “And that whole pier, she comes tumbling right down, along with the hotel on top of it.”
“And the wave done knocked our canoe right over!” Uli adds.
“Ya. We got soaked,” Lars concludes.
“You’re telling me Talbot’s Waterfront Hotel has collapsed!?” Lieutenant Agar exclaims.
“Oh, ya,” Lars says calmly, as if he were talking about a low-budget movie he’s seen. “The whole thing, right down into the water. You should have seen the smoke and dust rising…”
“And that mummy-looking-suspect is prowling around the ruins,” Uli adds. “I thought I seen him grab some joe and start chokin’ him—but we was too far away to make it out, clearly.”
“And we got water in our eyes,” Lars says.
“You ninnies!” Lieutenant Agar roars. “The pier under Talbot’s collapses and you stand here telling me fairy stories about some mummy you may or may not have seen!”
I don’t blame him for being mad. The Danes have, as they say, buried the lead.
And, come to think of it, now that their preposterous story is over, I do believe that I can hear police and fire sirens wailing outside.
Lieutenant Agar bursts out of his office. “Gustav, grab your canoe!” he commands. “We’ll strap it to the top of my car, alongside mine. We’ve got to get to the Talbot, pronto!”
“What’s happening, Lieutenant?” I ask, pretending for the nonce that I didn’t hear what transpired inside his office.
“There’s been some kind of disaster down there, but we’ll have to check it out for ourselves,” he replies. “I don’t trust the details these two nincompoops fed me. Paddle up!”
“Aye aye, Lieutenant!”
“What should we do, chief?” Lars asks.
“If you’re going to sleep, you might as well do it in your own beds—not on the job!” Lieutenant Agar snaps. “Go home!”
“Aye aye, chief!” the pair reply with a crisp salute.
“Ha! Serves ’em right, eh Gustav!”
Needless to say, Sven, I didn’t get much sleep last night. And I’m sure you heard on the news this morning, that the Talbot Waterfront Hotel did indeed suffer a collapse. Many people were hurt, but fortunately, the whole hotel did not fall into the lake.
“That’ll take a long time to re-build, won’t it, Gustav. Kinda kills the Talbot’s summer season, I guess.”
No doubt. The cause of the disaster remains, to this point, a mystery.
“You don’t think those dunces could be right about a mummy causing it, do you?”
Myself, I would doubt the report of the Mad Danes if it were not for one salient detail—one which, up ’til now, has not been released to the press: Only a single corpse was discovered amid the wreckage.
The body belonged to Dr. Cecil Zucco—that museum director you met at the diner yesterday, Sven. And he had not been crushed to death in the collapse; rather, early reports indicate that he was strangled.
“Brrr! That’s a ghost story fit for tellin’ around a campfire, Gustav!”
Indeed. Perhaps even more so because it is true.
“Okay, I get everything you told me—and I heard about the rest on the news—but here’s the important question: In all the time you were out there, from the middle of the night until dawn, did you see anything unusual—anything ancient-Egyptian-like—ol’ buddy?”
No, Sven, I’m sorry to admit, that in all that time, I did not catch one glimpse of a mummy—not even a single strand of moldy wrapping.
“That’s too bad, Gustav, ol’ chum. Spotting that mummy yourself would have been a heck of a story to impress that waitress!”
NEXT: The Exhibit Party
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