Pulling into the Model Garage
after an errand downtown, Gus Wilson grinned with recognition when he saw a
battered '35 sedan on the shop floor. "Gabriella, the car that thinks
for herself," he mused. He well remembered the day a year ago when the
car, through a temporary and still unexplained refusal to start, had kept
him from jerking loose the air hose that Greg Jones had draped around the
As Gus got out, the curious
figure of Dr. Jason Evants stepped from behind the hard-used vehicle.
Gus shook hands heartily with
the town's most eccentric citizen. "Glad to see you again, Professor.
How's the Philosophy of Universal Sentiency coming along?"
Dr. Evants gestured with a
"I have progressed beyond that," he
said gravely. "Presently I am engaged in a study of the Phenomenon of
the Sequence of Three in human affairs."
Stan Hicks, who had just come
up, looked startled. "Gee, Professor," he asked in an awestruck tone,
Dr. Evants' keen eyes
glittered. "It is an all-important natural phenomenon which you
undoubtedly have experienced, young man, but have failed to evaluate.
Haven't you ever read an unfamiliar word or heard an unfamiliar name, and
then had that new word or name brought forcibly to your attention twice more
within a very brief period of time? Everything!"
Stan's eyes goggled, "Gee,
Professor! That's right! Why, the other night I met a babe named
Dr. Evants' decisive gesture
cut him short.
"Obviously, young man," he said, "you
have experienced one of the less complex of the manifold manifestations of
the Sequence of Three. Ponder on it, and learn to turn it to your
"I'll do that, Professor - I
certainly will!" Stan said earnestly. "This babe - "
"That carburetor job is
promised for ten o'clock, Stan," Gus reminded him diplomatically.
"Now, about Gabriella, Professor - has she been warning you again by
refusing to start?"
Dr. Evants shook his shaggy
But she may be attempting to warn me
against driving slowly - "
"You mean against driving fast,
don't you?" Gus interrupted.
"I invariably mean precisely
what I say!" Evants snapped tartly. "I repeat
that Gabriella may be trying to warn me against driving slowly by emitting
an as yet unidentified rattling sound which ceases when she attains a speed
of exactly 18 miles per hour. On the other hand, the rattle may be
merely the result of some obscure mechanical maladjustment or imbalance.
I am confident your expert investigation will determine which is the fact."
"Okay, Professor," Gus said,
smothering a grin. "I'll be glad to look the old gal over, but I can't
do it right now."
"At your convenience, Mr.
Wilson. I shall return at five," Dr. Evants replied.
"Boss," Stan remarked early
that afternoon, "I promised Wiggins I'd deliver that battery to his shop
soon as it was charged. Maybe I better do it now."
"Maybe so," Gus agreed.
"Wait a minute, though. No need of getting the wrecker out. I
want to test the Professor's bus. I'll take you and the battery up to
They got into Gabriella, and
Gus drove out of the shop. The rattle started as soon as the wheels
begin to turn and continued while they worked slowly through the sticky
traffic. When they got out on the highway and Gus speeded up, the
noise suddenly stopped.
Stan was watching the
speedometer. "Just like the old guy said," he commented. "It
quit when she hit 18. Why, boss?"
"That's for you to find out,"
"That'll be easy," Stan
predicted cock-surely. "Something to do with th' wheels."
When they got back to the Model
Garage Stan pried off Gabriella's hub caps one after another. As he
removed the fourth one, a wheel nut clattered to the floor.
Was it a Carelesss Mechanic?
the professor must have been absent-minded, "Stan mused." Sure didn't
tighten that nut - or it wouldn't have worked loose and rattled around
inside the hub cap. "After tightening it securely on the stud, he
reported his success.
"Good for you," Gus applauded.
"But what made the rattle disappear?"
Stan looked blank. "I
forgot about that," he confessed. "I'll take another look."
"You needn't," Gus said.
"Ever hear of centrifugal force? That's the answer. When the car
got up to 18, the wheels were turning fast enough so centrifugal force held
the nut at the edge of the cap."
Stan thought it over. "I
get it," he said at last. Then, after more thought: "Say, boss -
do you think we'll get two more wheel jobs today, like the old guy said?"
"Well," said Gus. "the
Professor's smart, but that Phenomenon of the Sequence of Three sounds like
so much hooey to me. But whatever comes in, you'll have to take care
of it. I'm going to pull this transmission."
He still was busy some time
later when Jim Jelliff drove his business coupe into the shop - but not too
busy to cock an ear and hear Jim tell Stan there was a mysterious rattle
that seemed to come from one of the wheels. Stan sidled over to Gus, a
delighted look on his face. "Another wheel job!" he whispered.
Sold on Dr. Evants' theory of
the Sequence of Three, and confidently expecting to find another loose wheel
nut, Stan removed each hub cap and checked every nut individually.
But all were tight. A half hour
of trouble-shooting got him nowhere. Finally, he walked over to Gus.
"I'm stumped, boss," he said.
Leaving his transmission job,
Gus took a look at all the wheels. Then he drove the car around the
block. He was grinning when he returned. "You've found the
trouble," he told Stan. "Take the bus for a ride, kid."
Second Case is Solved
From the corner of his
eye Gus watched Stan replace the hub caps and drive out. Ten minutes
later the young mechanic was back, looking dejected. "The rattle's as
bad as ever," he said.
"Use your head, "Gus told him.
"I tested the car without the hub caps. You put them on before you
took it out."
"Why, sure!" Stan said,
brightening. "One of the hub caps must be loose."
Quickly prying off all except
one of the caps, he again road-tested the car. No rattle. The
same with two caps. But as soon as he started out the door after
installing the third cap, the rattle popped up again. Looking closely,
Stan could see the retaining clips closely, Stan could see the retaining
clips weren't doing their job. He bent them so they would hold tighter
- and the rattle was gone.
As he finished his transmission
job, Gus glanced at the shop clock. Half-past four. He grinned
at Stan. "Looks as if the Professor's Sequence of Three is going to
"Still have an hour to quitting
time," Stan said stubbornly.
A horn sounded outside.
When Stan opened the shop door old Silas Barnstable, the town's leading
penny pincher, drove in and hopped out of his veteran sedan. "Hey!" he
"There's a funny noise!"
"There always are funny noises
in your car," Gus kidded him. "What's this one?"
"It's a mean noise," Silas told
him. "Thump, Bump. Not loud - a dull, sneaky sort of noise.
Irregular like. Only hear it
when I'm drivin' slow - under 20. Funny part of it is I don't never
hear it except when I'm on a dead-smooth road. If I cut the motor and
coast, I can hear it real well. Sounds like it's somewhere in the
Stan jumped. Gus laughed.
"Stan's specializing in wheels today," he chuckled.
Still going on Dr. Evants'
theory of the Sequency of Three Stan pried the hub caps off Barnstable's car
and drove it up the street.
But, to his disappointment, the noise
was still there - a faint, elusive thump that seemed to come from one of the
front wheels. He drove back to the shop.
"Well," said Gus, "so long as
you've got wheels on your mind, why not jack up those front ones and see if
you can find anything?"
Stan followed instructions.
After considerable wheel spinning, he came up with the information that the
noise was coming from the left front wheel.
"Any chance it's a bad
bearing?" Gus asked.
"Don't think so, "Stan said.
"This noise is a dull thump - nothing like the click a bad bearing makes."
Just then a customer tooted at
the gas pump and Stan hurried out. Gus stood looking at the wheel for
a moment, thinking.
Then he grabbed a lug wrench and
quickly pulled off the wheel. Keeping pace with it, he rolled the
wheel the length of the shop, like a boy rolling a hoop, leaning over to
listen closely as he did so. When Stan returned, Gus was standing at
his workbench writing out a time slip.
"What'll I do next, boss?" Stan
Gus didn't look up. "Take
off the tire and bring me the tube," he said.
Stan shrugged his shoulders,
but was back with the tube in a couple of minutes. Gus shook the tube
- an amply patched one - and grinned when he heard a slight noise in it.
"There's a stone in it," he
said. "That's what's making the noise."
How Did It Get Inside?
Deflating the tube completely,
Stan could easily feel the stone. "But how could a stone - "
"Hey, Silas," Gus interrupted.
"How long since you had a blowout?"
"Last week," Silas said.
"Out in the country on a gravel road, it was."
"Who patched the tube?" Gus
"Feller in th' Four Corners
garage," Silas told him. "Do a job cheaper than you fellers in town."
Gus let him feel the stone in
"That's the cause of your
noise," he said. "The stone must have been driven in through the hole
in your tire casing, and the fellow who patched your tire sealed it in...
Better have a new tube. This one isn't worth another patch."
"Well, I dunno," Silas said.
"Tubes are right high these days. Guess you'd better fix this one.
Th' two patches have held all right, so why shouldn't another one?
I've noticed things go by threes."
Dr. Evants had come quietly
into the shop.
"Sir," he said to Silas, "you
have discovered through experience one of the deepest of nature's secrets.
Should you desire to pursue your investigation of it on the philosophical
level. I am at your service. My forthcoming book - "
"Your car's ready, Professor,"
Gus interrupted. "That noise came from a slight mechanical
misadjustment. Gabriella wasn't trying to warn you."
When Doctor Evants and Silas had
finally driven their separate ways, Stan turned to his employer. "Now boss,"
he asked seriously, "do you believe in the old guy's dope about threes?"
Gus laughed. "You bet I
do!" he said.
"Matter of fact there's one
part of it I've always believed in. So far today, I've had two meals.
And now, if you'll close up the shop, I'm going straight down to the Park
House - and have the third one. I always eat by threes!"