It was Saturday, and business
was slow at the Model Garage. Stan Hicks had finished a job due at
noon and was on his way to wash up for lunch when a car drove in.
"I'll take care
of that," said Gus, coming from the office. "You go along to the
I..." Stan swallowed his words as the driver got out - a petite brunette no
more than 19, and pretty enough to have stepped off a magazine cover.
She wore a white satin blouse and a brightly colored skirt and cape.
"I've got time,"
Stan hastily assured Gus. "I'll see what I can do."
Gus looked toward
the girl, grinned, and went back to the office.
brunette was scowling as Stan came up, her jaw set angrily, her eyes giving
"Well, don't just
stand there; go ahead and start," she demanded.
Start what, Miss?" asked Stan.
She banged a
small fist against the side of the car, a popular six-cylinder model about
seven years old. "Just listen to it!"
Stan tore his
attention from the pretty face. The car engine was idling irregularly,
sometimes almost stalling.
"It sounded like
Jack Benny's old Maxwell all the way from home," the girl cried.
I don't want to miss the whole meet!"
Stan opened the
hood. "Has it been running like this for long?"
"Days and days,
I've already had brand-new plugs put in the thing, so don't tell me it needs
The wiring was
old but not visibly cracked. It responded raggedly but there was none
of the sputtering typical of fuel failure.
Letting it idle
again, he wrapped a rag around his fingers and gently tugged on the cable to
the number-six plug. It was tight on the plug terminal. So were
the cables to plugs five and four. But the engine's off-beat rhythm
changed as he pulled on the cable of number three. He yanked it off,
and the engine stalled. Squeezing the cable socket a trifle, he pushed
it back on and restarted the engine. The miss was still there.
The other two cables seemed tight.
"Look here, Miss
- " began Stan.
You look. Can't you fix it while I go to the track meet? I've
come all the way from Stanville, and it's already half over. I tried
three gas stations - and they couldn't fix it. One suggested I come here."
A horn blared
shrieked the girl. "She's come to take me back; I've got to rush.
Please see what you can do."
She was gone in a
swirl of skirt.
"In a hurry,
wasn't she?" commented Gus.
"Going to that
junior-college track meet at the stadium," answered Stan, dreamily.
"Cute name she's
got - Bliss."
And you have about one hour to find that miss for Miss Bliss."
Stan removed the plugs, reset the gaps on two, wiped the porcelains, and
replaced all six plugs. He checked the point setting, made sure the
high-tension cables were well spaced - neither cross-firing nor shorting to
engine parts - and the low-tension wiring tight.
The engine still
Nursing his hunch
that ignition rather than the fuel system was at fault, Stan opened the
distributor again. He pulled the center cable from the cap, held it
near the engine, and, with the ignition on, flicked the points open by hand.
A juicy spark gave coil and condenser a clean bill of health.
Making sure that
the cable end and its socket were clean. Stan examined the cap for
corrosion, cracks, or spark tracks. He found none. The rotor
seemed all right, but he put in a new one before trying the engine again.
It sounded just
the same, Stan, head cocked, was puzzling out his next step when Gus came
"Just had a phone
call from Mrs. Brownell. She's at the stadium and she says one power
window is jammed and she can't move her car."
because a window's jammed? Sounds goofy."
"I know, but
she's a sensible woman, and a good customer. I have to wait for Judge
Toler to come for his car. You go - she's in parking lot B - and I'll
take a look at this job."
hastily explained what he'd done so far, and drove out.
Traffic was heavy
as homeward-bound cars spread out from the stadium. But section B
wasn't empty when Stan arrived. It held a milling, cheerfully noisy
group of students - and Mrs. Brownell's big two-door sedan.
A serpentine line
of students was rhumba-stepping around it. They cheered as Stan
toolbox in hand, broke through to the car.
almost-closed rear window hung a girl's arm.
Mrs. Brownell was
standing beside the car. "Please do something, Stan," she said
breathlessly. "You can see why I didn't dare drive - with her arm
hanging out the window."
"I'll sure try,"
"Some boys were
teasing her," the woman explained. "So I thought I'd close the window
with the button up front, not knowing they'd grabbed her hand and were
Stan opened the
driver's door - and stared.
The trapped girl
was Miss Bliss.
"Hey - never
expected to see you here, But don't worry; the boss is fixing your car."
nonsense and get me out of this," the young woman retorted.
Turning the key
to "radio," Stan tried the control button at the front window. It slid
down obediently. Pressing the remote button for the rear window had no
effect. The one at the window itself produced only a ratcheting sound
much like sprocket teeth jumping out of mesh.
the battery. Getting into the rear of the car, he took the screws out
of the window frame.
The girl shifted
lithely out of the way as far as possible, while outside the crowd yelled
encouragement, much of it suggesting a more personal approach.
got the frame free of the window and hung it on the girl's shoulder.
To detach the
armrest he had to put one arm around the girl. Then, with the lining
panel off, he loosened the screws holding the inspection plate.
Now he could see
that the driven sprocket, overloaded when the girl's arm blocked the rising
window, had sprung out of mesh. On-the-spot repairs were impossible.
The only course was to remove a bolt that served as the pivot of the lifting
with some agitation, the task before him. The nut was hard to reach;
to hold the bolt, too, he'd have to use two wrenches, working close to the
window. He began to wish the crowd outside would all go home.
He explained to
the girl. She gave him a blistering glance and shrank back, arching
her body to let him reach past. Stan became acutely aware of her
perfume, while quips from the crowd grew louder. The wrenches felt
grease covered. Once Stan almost dropped one inside the window space.
The nut could be turned only a little at a time.
Finally it came
off, to his relief. He tapped out the bolt and caught the window-pane
just as it dropped.
A cheer rang out
as the girl drew in her arm and squirmed away, across the wide seat.
Mrs. Brownell was by her side at once with a first-aid kit. Stan
scrambled out of the sedan.
"Drive to the
garage and we'll fix the window, ma'am," he said, turning toward the pickup.
ground fell away under him as hands clutched and raised him. To
a chorus of "He's a Jolly Good Fellow" he was carried to the truck.
Gus was writing
out a bill for Judge Toler when Stan drove in and made for Gus. "How'd
you make out?" he asked. "The judge had a million questions, as
"Got an idea,"
said Stan. He started the engine, then switched off the droplight he
had been using.
For a moment they
could see little. Then Stan spotted a faint bluish thread snapping
along number-one plug.
"You got it,
Stan," agreed Gus. "Intermittent shorting - there it is at numbers two
and three, too."
jumping between the rain caps and the screw shells of the plugs. Stan
tugged at number-three cable. The sparking ceased, and the engine
seemed to steady slightly. He pushed the cable on hard, and
immediately the sparks appeared again.
finished yet?" The last word was a squeak of dismay.
men turned to confront the owner of the car - and the white satin blouse.
"Been kind of
busy with a few other things," returned Stan. "Like getting you loose
at the stadium,"
The girl turned
to Gus. "Do you have any idea what he's talking about?"
"No, but let me
ask one," said Gus. "Has this car had a radiator leak?"
Water sprayed all over before it was fixed. Why?"
Gus had pulled
off a plug cable. He folded back the edge of its rain cap.
"Look at this, Miss," he said. "Here's
why-Stan found it. These old hoods are loose on the plugs, so some
spray bounced off the engine and got into them. Old radiator water's rusty.
It dried inside these caps and made a dandy path for short-circuiting
"How long will I
be held up here?" asked the girl, sounding worried.
"I'll put on all
new caps," said Stan.
"Quickest way to finish this
The girl watched
coolly as he set to work. Just as he finished, the Brownell car drove
"I didn't come
about the window," the driver called. "Just to bring Katy. She's
so grateful to Stan. So am I."
Stan swiveled his
head in bewilderment from the girl beside him to the one getting out of the
car. Their dress was identical-swirly skirts and white satin blouses.
are-of twins," said Mrs. Brownell. "I'll be back with the car on
She drove out.
Stan started the engine. It idled perfectly.
"That does it,
gals. No more missing, now."
Stan closed the
hood and turned to find himself facing Ann Bliss. He grinned
"Guess I acted
like a creep," she said, smiling. "I'm sure grateful to you for fixing
the car, and I get the idea that you did something nice for my sister, too.
So thanks awfully."
"Did you know,"
asked Ann Bliss, "that three other mechanics flunked out on this job?
It took you to solve the case of the mystery miss."
returned Stan. "The car part was only half of it."