finished tightening the nuts on the clutch-to-transmission housing of George
Miller's sedan and turned to Stan Hicks.
Miller won't have any, more trouble with the shift lever jumping out of gear
when she's in sticky traffic and her usual dither," he said. "Remember, kid,
that's the way to cure that particular pain in the neck-loosen all the nuts
on the housing and then tighten them carefully and evenly, just the way you
tighten the nuts on a cylinder head. Even a slight-"
you've finished that lecture," broke in a disagreeable voice, "maybe you'll
have time to give me some attention."
around and without the slightest pleasure, recognized the grouchy face of
Anson Fielder, local superintendent of the electric-power company.
Fielder," Gus said. his usual cordiality lacking, "I didn't hear you come
in. Want something?"
you think I'm here, Fielder replied tartly. "I want you to look at my car."
drove an expensive but somewhat battered station wagon into the shop. When
he got out he screwed his face up as if he were in pain. "Sprained my
ankle," he explained ungraciously. "I ought to be home in bed, and I would
be if there was anyone at the plant I could trust.... One of my pistons is
educated ears had already told him that. "So I hear." he agreed. He did a
quick job of checking while Fielder watched impatiently. "It's the piston of
the No. 2 cylinder," he said. "I'll put a new one in."
won't," Fielder told him. "You order a new piston. and I'll install it
myself." "It'll save me money and I'll probably do a better job. Take the
old piston out, and I'll have one of our trucks tow the car out to my place
in the country. There's other work I want to do on it. How long will it take
to get a piston?"
three days-maybe more," Gus said. "You'd better leave the old one in until
then. You can drive with it, anyway. The Weather Bureau predicts snow, and
you, won't want to be marooned without a car."
lookout," Fielder snapped.
"And besides, the Weather Bureau's
wrong nine times out of ten. The truck will be here for the car at
That was Tuesday
. On Thursday morning, in
spite of Anson Fielder's contempt for Weather Bureau forecasts, Gus changed
into his work clothes to an accompaniment of the slap of tire chains and the
scrape of snow shovels on the street outside.
"I got the driveway clear," Stan said.
Some storm. It's pretty near two feet deep. What time did the lights go
"About two," Gus answered, "And they
didn't back on until after seven this morning. Our friend Anson Fielder will
get panned plenty for that breakdown." A horn squawked outside. "Better open
letting in a smart-looking coupe from which stepped George E. Bevens, the
president of the power company and an old friend of Gus'.
"'Morning," he greeted. Wasn't sure
I'd make it in the snow. Will you get that ring job done as soon as you
can, Gus? I've got a date in
Florida next week with a sailfish.
saw that in spite of his offhand words Bevens' florid face was serious.
"What's the matter. George?" he asked. "Worrying about that breakdown?"
looked around to make sure he and Gus were alone. "It was a bad one." he
confided, "but what worries me most is that young Dale Grant failed to meet
the emergency. I expect wires to go down in a sleet and snow storm, but I
don't expect them to stay down for five hours."
Grant?" Gus asked. "How is Dale to blame? "Fielder is the plant super-it's
up to him to keep juice flowing, isn't it?"
yes," Bevens replied. "But he was off duty yesterday with a sprained ankle,
and when they reached him by phone his car was shot and he couldn't come in
until they had sent another car out into the country for him. Meanwhile,
Grant was called In, and he didn't get the mess cleaned up until just before
Fielder finally made it. Frankly, I'm disappointed. I had picked young Grant
for the job of general superintendent - over the head of Fielder."
Gus had known Dale Grant since he was
an electricity-crazy kid in knee pants, and after the boy came home from
college and went to work for the power company, he took almost fatherly
pride in his quick climb to the job of assistant superintendent. He was
still thinking about him when Dale himself came into the shop half an hour
your advice about something important, Mr. Wilson," Dale said, "There were
some queer things about that breakdown. One was that the wires that went
down were cut-although whoever did it made a good job of making the cuts
look like breaks. Another was that the wires were cut at seven places."
and stared out of the window. "But this is the real screwy part," he went on
at last. "When I was on my way to the power house. I saw a man jump into a
station wagon at one of the spots where a break was found and drive down a
side road. I couldn't see him plainly, but my lights caught the station
wagon and I'm almost sure it was Mr. Fielder's. It wasn't until an hour
later that we got him on the phone, and phone service wasn't affected by the
storm. He told us then that a piston was missing from his station wagon."
right," Gus commented.
shrugged hopelessly. "That leaves me behind the eight ball," he said. "His
station wagon couldn't have been where I saw it if it was minus a piston."
Fielder friends?" Gus asked.
"We got along fairly well," Dale told
him, "or at least we did until he got the idea that Mr. Bevens might promote
me to general superintendent. But what I want to know is whether I should
tell all this to Mr. Bevens.
his pipe silently for at least two minutes before he answered. Then he said:
"Yes, tell him."
later Joe Clark came into the shop to say that Bevens was on the phone, and
wanted Gus to come to his office.
I'll be over," Gus said.
Fielder were with Bevens. "There are a few questions about Fielder's station
wagon that I'd be obliged to have you answer. Gus," Bevens said.
to Mr. Fielder," Gus replied.
ahead," Fielder snapped, giving Dale a hard look. "I haven't anything to
tells me," Bevens went on, "that you removed one of the pistons from his
engine Tuesday and ordered a new one that hasn't yet been delivered."
right," Gus agreed.
Bevens continued, "I want you to do this for me. Gus, drive out to Fielder's
house, examine his car, and report to me."
the garage key." Fielder said. "Lock the door when you leave.
Gus drove fast, let himself into
Fielder's garage, checked over the engine, and then drove back. He reported
that he had found the engine still minus its No. 2 piston.
face showed his pleasure. "Well, Mr. Dale Grant," he smirked, "where is your
cock and bull story now?"
Bevens frowned. "That proves that
Fielder couldn't have driven out last night and couldn't have had anything
to do with the breakdown." He looked at Dale regretfully. "Considering that
there were seven different breaks in the line, I was ready to pass over the
delay in restoring service, but for you to lie in an attempt to shift the
minute. George." Gus cut in. "How do you know Fielder couldn't have driven
his station wagon last night?" Give me an hour, and I'll prove that he
could." Bevens stared at him. Then he nodded. "All right, I'll give you an
of breath and pretty well covered with grease, Gus was back in 50 minutes.
"You know what this is, don't you? "he asked Bevens, holding up a piston.
automobile piston, of course."
piston out of the No. 2 cylinder of your automobile, George," Gus
supplemented. "You left your coupe in my shop for a ring job today. I have
just removed this piston and the rod, adjusted the valves, buttoned up the
engine, and driven the car over from the shop. You now have a seven cylinder
car. It doesn't run very smoothly, but I could drive It across the country
and back if I had to. There is every reason to believe that Fielder could do
just what I've done. He was going to install the new piston himself, so he
must know engines."
face had turned chalk white when Bevens looked around at him. "You hardly
need to admit anything, Fielder,- Bevens told him, "Your face does that for
you. But you can save talking to the county prosecutor if you resign now."
chin fell. He nodded consent.
"And you, Grant," Bevens went on. "get
yourself a good rest from your night's work against sabotage and report
tomorrow - as general superintendent. Gus, I am much obliged. That
invitation to meet a sailfish in
Florida next week still stands."