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Cleaning-up In The Dirty Thirties
by John Brooke

The service station sat in the Chicago sticks on Highway 12. No traffic in the twilight. The lone gas jockey, fluttered about like a moth in the bright lights of the station.

Squealing tires shattered the serenity as a brand new, 1933 Stutz town-car roared into the station. Several fresh bullet holes marred the elegant coachwork.

“Fill ‘er up pops.” Snapped the driver to the old attendant.

‘Fats’ Freeman ballooned out of the driver’s door. The attendant noted his chalk-striped dark suit, gaudy tie, spectator shoes and the broad brimmed fedora that shadowed his eyes.

”Where’s the crapper?” Fat’s said, noticed the sign, and stalked off. 

As he pumped, the attendant saw a good-looking blond dame in the back seat; she leaned forward, telegraphed her message through wide fear stricken eyes. Lifted her rope bound wrists to the window for him to see. Then dropped back out of sight. 

‘Sky-high’ Hymie unfolded himself from the passenger side and joined ‘Fats’ as he returned from the restroom. They were two bozos that shared a bad fashion sense.

‘Sky-high’ called to the attendant, “What’s your moniker pops?”

“It ain’t Pops; I’m Archibald he answered politely. ‘Fats’ retorted, “Okay, Archie, we’ll call you Asshole.”

“Not nice” commented ‘Sky-high’ with a chilling chuckle.

Archibald smiled outwardly; inwardly he felt the cold knot of fear in his gut. “Do you want me to check the oil?” 

“Naw, get the goddamned tank filled.” 

Archibald’s mind moved faster than a racecar at the Indianapolis Speedway; he connected the dots, had to save the kidnapped blond broad. A bank heist, she was a teller taken hostage. These gunsels were Outfit mobsters headed to Lake Como to lay low. They had to be stopped. He felt helpless, but then an idea formed in his old brain--

The tank was full, “That’ll be $5:50.”

‘Sky-high’ peeled off a twenty from a wad of dough.

“I was just closing up when you pulled in, I’ll get your change from the office.”

“Well, hurry it up eh, Asshole.” 

Archibald shuffled fast, rang up the sale, got change. Then he pocketed the sugar jar that sat with the coffee percolator. Rushed back and handed over the exact change. No tip but, he was relieved they hadn’t shot him yet.

As they got back into the Stutz, Archibald slipped around to the rear and poured sugar into the tank and screwed on the cap. He called “Want your windshield cleaned.” 

He couldn’t make out their obscenities over the screech of rubber and the roar of the engine as they rocketed out into the fading light.

Archibald exhausted staggered into the office and called the Highway Patrol reporting the situation, the captive woman and all. 

”You’ll find the Stutz, stalled from sugar clogged fuel filters five miles up the highway from the Flying Horse Gas Station--”