late-summer warmth, the doorway of Gus Wilson's Model Garage suddenly
darkened with the bulk of an entering car.
"Come on out, Gus!" bellowed the
driver. "No use sneaking under a car."
Gus came out of the office, grinning.
"Our big-mouthed fire chief! Haven't been eating much smoke lately,
have you Mal?"
Chief Maloney's seamed face puckered
into a frown. "It has been kind of quiet. How'd you know?"
"Couldn't yell like that if you'd been
earning your pay," cracked Gus.
"At least I don't diagnose auto jobs
wrong and make people pay for my bum guesses!" roared Maloney.
"So what can I soak you for?"
"Got a noise. Boys at the
firehouse say it's a bad water pump. Listen!"
Gus cocked an ear over Maloney's five
year-old sedan. It filled with a regular, metallic twang.
Stan, Gus's young helper ambled over.
"Pump bearing's shot," he said.
Maloney cut the engine. "Good
thing you've got a real mechanic, Gus," he roared. "Or you'd be
charging me for something else. Have it tomorrow, huh?" He
started out, but swung back. "Give my best to Nora Blythe, Gus."
Gus started. "Nora Bly - you
mean Mrs. Simpson?"
"She's a rich widow now, back from
Florida to settle her husband's estate," said Mahoney with a wolfish grin.
"I've sort of fixed it for her to see you."
"Now hold on - "began Gus.
"Didn't take much fixing," was the
Chief's parting shot. "She's willing."
An hour later, Gus got his hat.
"I'm going upstate to see Tom Powers about overhauling his truck."
"But he said there's no rush,"
protested Stan. "I've got that brake job, and you promised to put that
new radiator in Bronson's car today."
"You handle 'em" said Gus with
uncharacteristic brusqueness, "I'll be - "
A horn blast interrupted him.
From a shiny convertible, a mature, youthfully dressed woman with red hair
called, "Gus! Gus Wilson!"
Hastily Gus walked over to the car.
"It's wonderful see you again," said
Nora Simpson warmly. "I've thought of you so often. I really
"Been a long time," said Gus.
"And you've never married!
Naughty you," she cooed. "Look what Chief Maloney left on my car
A slip headed "Fire Department" stated
that the car had been found leaking gasoline in the street, and that excess
gas had been drained from the tank as a safety measure. A suggestion
that any necessary gas-tank repairs be made immediately was underlined.
The slip was signed by Malcolm Maloney.
Equally annoyed and amused, Gus told
Stan to put the car on a lift.
"Mal's very conscientious," Gus said
to Mrs. Simpson.
"But I think we can have you out of
here very quickly."
The handsome red-haired woman pursed
her lips prettily, "Are you in a hurry to get rid of little me?"
"No, no, of course not," fumbled Gus.
"But I thought you might be - "
"I have oodles of time until I have to
sign things at my lawyer's."
"Yes, ma'am," said Gus miserably, and
took refuge under the raised car. "There's not a thing wrong with your
gas tank," he reported presently.
"But it was leaking gas!"
"Somebody overfilled it with cool
gasoline from an underground tank.
It was a hot day. With the car
in the sun, that thankful expanded. Some had to get out, so it spilled
"That's all that was wrong?" asked
"That's all," said Gus firmly.
Motioning Stan away, he escaped further talk by lowering and turning the car
around to get Mrs. Simpson on her way.
Surprising Stan, Gus now forgot all
about going to the Powers farm. Instead, he tackled the radiator job.
And the convertible rolled back in.
"I forgot," said Nora Simpson
triumphantly. "My no-charge light is on."
Silently Gus peered at the dash.
The charging indicator stayed lit even when she revved up the engine.
"Tiresome," she pouted. "I had a
new generator put in on the way up here because that light stayed on."
"Could be your voltage regulator,"
said Gus. "Or something even simpler."
"Well, do put in a new voltage thing,
"Could be just a loose wire."
"No, the other man said it might be
that voltage thing, too. I want a new one. Then it's sure to be
"Yes, ma'am," said Gus dubiously as,
with a flick of a braceleted wrist, Nora Simpson tripped out of the shop.
With some misgivings, Gus ordered Stan to install a new voltage regulator.
"That car has a printed instrument
circuit," Stan reported later, "with a fuse in it. I checked that,
too. Everything works, so she shouldn't be coming back again."
Gus looked at him narrowly.
You finish the radiator job, because
now I am going up to Tom Powers' place."
Relieved to see the convertible gone
when he entered the Model Garage next morning, Gus set to work on the
Maloney sedan. He removed the belt that drove the water pump.
Then, just to check the diagnosis, he started the engine.
The tinny clank was still there.
"Sure sounded like a
pump bearing" said Stan, a little crestfallen.
"Sure did," agreed Gus, leaning close
to the left-hand cylinder bank. "It also sounds like a broken valve
spring in number one cylinder. Let's - "
A familiar horn interrupted him.
"I hate to bother you," called a
smiling Nora, "but it's lighting up again.
The charge indicator was mockingly
alight. In grim silence, Gus put a meter on the generator. It
was charging. The regulator, too, worked perfectly. Alongside
him, Nora chattered on amiably.
"You look so well, despite the awful
winters you have here. You should move to Florida - such good fishing
and - "
Gus ducked under the instrument panel.
If the fuse were blown, the indicator would "fail safe" by lighting.
He shorted the fuse clips with the engine running. The light went out.
He removed the fuse. It wasn't
blown, but the light he turned on the clips showed green corrosion. By
handling the fuse. Stan had restored contact until, overnight,
creeping corrosion had again interrupted it. Gus stopped the engine,
cleaned the clips, put back the fuse.
"Do you keep this car near the shore
much?" Gus asked as he got out.
"A great deal. We have a
seashore cottage, I'd just love to show you."
"That's your trouble, Nora."
The curved lips set angrily.
"I mean that sea air at the shore,"
Gus explained hastily. "Salt water corrosion caused a bad contact.
You didn't need a new generator or regulator."
"Oh, well," she said mollified.
"But I do wish you'd visit Florida."
"My sinuses can't stand sea air," lied
Gus. "Now Mal, he just loves it. Always wanted to fish for
Almost absently mindedly Nora Simpson
started the engine. The indicator winked out. Thoughtfully she
"Where's the ham-handed boss?"
"Over here," retorted Gus.
"Trying to figure how to get even with you."
Maloney guffawed. "It wasn't all
a gag. Her car was spilling gas, Gus."
Gus grunted. "Keep laughing -
I've got bad news. We put a new pump in your car, but the noise
Thought it was a busted valve spring
then. But after we pulled the head, we found them all okay - "
"Ho-o-ld it!" bellowed Maloney.
"You did two jobs I didn't need?"
"Tough break," said Gus, starting the
Under its smooth idle was the metallic
twang. Maloney turned brick red.
"Notice how awkward it is to pull the
dipstick out? It's under the generator. The double pulley makes
Grasping the dipstick, Gus yanked.
It came out - and the noise stopped.
"You almost have to bend the stick to
put it back," explained Gus. "And some serviceman did.
See how shiny the bent part is?
It's been hitting the first crank throw. Easy enough to straighten.
I won't even charge you - for that."
"But you'll soak me for a new pump and
for pulling the head!" sputtered Mal.
"Why didn't you find this first?"
"Relax, I did," admitted Gus with a
wicked grin. "The dipstick's in front of number-one cylinder, where
the noise came from. So I checked. Are we even?"
"Cagey, aren't you?" rumbled the
chief. "That how you stayed single with a gal like Nora Blythe chasing
"No," said Gus. "It was by
running a bit faster than Ed Simpson."