BEFORE I go any further, I want you to know how Myra Shumway first met Doc Ansell and Sam Bogle, and as I wasn’t there at the time, I’ll just tell the story as I heard it later.
Doc Ansell and Bogle were in Lorencillo’s caf?. Have you ever been there? It’s a little place hidden behind immensely thick stone walls. The patio is a fine example of the old Mexican r?gime, so the guide bock tells me. If that means nothing to you, it also means nothing to me, so what the hell?
In the centre of the patio is a carved stone fountain around which stand iron tables and benches. Overhead a canopy of leaves from the ancient cypresses and banana trees blot out the sky. You can imagine that it’s a pretty nice spot. There are a number of wooden cages along the verandah which house various coloured parkeets who squawk and whistle at you and if you’re new to the country you get a great kick out of the typical Mexican atmosphere.
Well, these two guys, Doc Ansell and Bogle, were sitting at a table drinking tepid beer when Bogle glanced up and spotted an egg-yolk blonde who had suddenly appeared from behind a bunch of Indian peddlers. He had one quick gander before she disappeared in the crowd again.
“Sam!” Doc Ansell said sharply. “Do I have to keep telling you women are poison!”
“Was that a mirage?” Bogle asked scrambling to his feet and gazing anxiously into the dimly lit shadows. “Did I see what I thought I saw?”
Doc Ansell laid down his knife and fork. He was a wizened little man with a shock of untidy white hair. “You’ve got to watch your glands, Bogle,” he cautioned. “There’s a time and place for everything.”
“You’re always shooting your mouth of about a time and place for everything. What time do I get? And when in hell do we stay in one place long enough to do anything?” Bogle returned, sitting down again.
“The trouble with you—” Ansell began, but Bogle raised his hand.
“You don’t have to tell me,” he said, pushing his plate away in sudden disgust. “I know. It’s getting so I’m imagining things. How much longer are we stickin’ in this country? I’m sick of it. What’s the matter with grabbing a train and getting the hell out of here? Couldn’t you do with the smell of Chicago for a change?”
“It’s a little too soon yet for you to go home,” Ansell reminded him gently.
Bogle frowned. He was a big, powerful man and his dirty drill suit fitted him badly. In the past, he had been a gunman, working for Little Bernie during the prohibition period. After repeal, he went to Chicago and tried to pick up a living as a heistman, but he was not smart enough to organize anything big enough to pay dividends. Then one night, he was involved in a gun battle with the police. Two of the police officers were hurt and Bogle did a lam act. He did not stop running until he reached Mexico. There, he felt comparatively safe. For the past six months he had been working with Doc Ansell, selling patent medicines to the Maya Indians.
Ansell and Bogle made an incongruous couple. They lived in different worlds. Bogle was always yearning for the fleshpots of life. He found Mexico insufferably dull after Chicago. He hated the food, the dust and the heat. The native women appalled him. Both socially and financially the small colony of American and English women were out of his reach. Even the whisky was bad. He hated Mexico nearly as much as he hated the police.
On the other hand, Ansell was happy in any country. So long as he was able to sell his various remedies to the gullible he did not mind where he lived.
Before Bogle became his partner, Ansell often had trouble with his patients. Sometimes, he even found it dangerous to return to the same town. But with Bogle at his side, he had no qualms in facing irate patients or going to the lowest native quarters in the various towns he visited. Bogle was an excellent bodyguard, as Little Bernie had discovered.
One look at his massive fists and hard little eyes was enough to cool any hasty temper. So it was then, that Ansell and Bogle had worked together for six months. They drifted from place to place, spending their morning dispensing coloured water in mysterious looking green bottles and, in the afternoons, selling them by quickfire sales talk to anyone foolish enough to listen.
Ansell represented the brains of the concern and Bogle the brawn. It was Bogle who set up the small tent and the collapsible platform. It was Bogle who set out the green bottles in neat rows and beat a small drum to attract attention.
The drum was Bogle’s own idea and in some districts it produced considerable dividends. Ansell would sit inside the tent, smoking a battered pipe, until Bogle’s hoarse whisper: “A big bunch of suckers waitin’” brought him to his feet. Then he would sweep majestically from the tent, his eyes blazing with fanatical enthusiasm and, cast spells over the bewildered audience.
Bogle would display his gigantic muscles, built entirely by Doctor Ansell’s Virile Tablets (a box of fifty for three dollars). Pictures of a drearily scraggy woman would be passed round the crowd with a comparison picture of the same woman equipped with a figure that made the natives’ eyes grow round. Doctor Ansell’s Bust Developer (a box of twenty- five pills for two dollars fifty) was responsible for this attractive transformation.
Ansell and Bogle preferred Lorencillo’s caf? to any other eating place. Few Americans came to the caf? and after the noise and bustle of the City, it was somewhere to pass a peaceful evening.
Bogle swished the last two inches of beer round in his glass. “The cops’ll have forgotten me by now,” he said. “It’s nearly a year ago. That’s a long time. Besides, you never saw those two guys. I was doing the State a service.”
“Talk sense,” Ansell returned. “How do you think we’d live? Can you imagine anyone buying my Virile pills in Chicago?”
Bogle was no longer listening. He was stating with eyes like organ-stops at the egg-yolk blonde who had come out of the caf? and was standing on the steps looking round the crowded
“Well, I’ll be damned!” he said, clutching at the table. “Take a look at that!”
Ansell sighed, “She’s certainly nice to look at, but she’d begin by stroking your hair and wind up with your scalp. You’re moving out of your class, Bogle.”
Bogle paid no attention. “Holy Moses!” he exploded suddenly. “She’s on her own, Doc. Get her over here before some greaseball snaps her up.”
Ansell regarded the girl doubtfully. She was slight. Her hard little face was full of character. Her eyes and mouth were large and her nose, Ansell decided, was her best feature. Her silky blonde hair fell to her shoulders and gleamed like burnished copper in the hard light of the acetylene flares. She was dressed in a neat white tailored suit over a dark red shirt.
Bogle was whispering with hoarse urgency in Ansell’s ear, “Get after her, Doc. Didja ever see such an outline? It’s like a blue print for Coney Island’s roller coaster!”
Two well-dressed Spaniards, sitting near them, were also showing interest in the girl. They had been muttering to each other the moment they had seen her and
Bogle whipped round, “Don’t get yourself in an uproar, pal,” he snarled. “Repark your fanny! I gotta date with that dame… so lay off!”
The Spaniard stared at him blankly, hesitated, then sat down again.
Ansell, anxious that there should be no trouble, rose to his feet.
“Watch your blood pressure,” he said sharply.
“To hell with my blood pressure. Get after that dame before I wreck this joint.” Ansell approached the girl rather self-consciously. Everyone in the patio watched him.
The girl leaned against the verandah rail and watched him come. Her eyes were watchful, but friendly. As he came up to her, she suddenly smiled. The large crimson mouth showed white teeth.
“Are they?” Ansell said, a little bewildered himself.
“I think so.” She met Bogle’s unwavering stare coolly. “Have you a tendency to hernia?” she asked him abruptly.
Bogle screwed up his face. “What’s she talking about?” he asked feebly.
“Maybe I’m being too personal,” she said. “Let me put it this way. During an arboreal existence in the Miocene epoch of the Tertiary era, man, or I should say, pre-historic man lost his tail. He acquired an upright gait and a tendency to hernia. I just wanted to see how far you’d got. Think nothing of it. It’s only idle curiosity.”
Bogle’s face went a dull red and his eyes flashed viciously. “So you’re a smart dame, eh?” he snarled. “We had a flock of ’em in Chicago. But, get ’em in a corner and they yell murder.”
“I’m fussy who I take in corners,” the girl replied briskly. Then she smiled at him. “Don’t get mad. I was just fooling. What’s your name?”
Bogle looked at her suspiciously, but her frank smile disarmed him. “Sam Bogle,” he said.
“And listen, sister…”
“That’s a lovely name,” she broke in. “Was your mother Mrs. Bogle?”
Bogle blinked. “Yeah,” he said. “What of it? Who else do you think she’d be?”
“I just wanted to make sure. Some of the funniest things do happen.”
“Well, nothing funny happened to me,” Bogle said angrily. “So don’t go putting ideas into people’s heads.”
She laughed, raising her shoulders and glanced over at Ansell, “Never mind,” she said.
“You mustn’t take me seriously. And who are you?” she went on to Ansell.
He introduced himself.
“A real doctor?” she-seemed quite impressed. “Well, I’m Myra Shumway. How do you do, Mr. Bogle? How do you do, Doctor Ansell?”
Bogle sat back heavily. “I don’t get this,” he sdid. “She must be crazy.”
“Don’t be a churl, Bogle,” she said sharply. “Just because you don’t understand my appeal, you don’t have to be rude. Who’s going to buy me a drink?”
“What would you like?” Ansell asked, slightly dazed.
“I think a Scotch might be nice.”
Ansell signalled a waiter. “Now, we’ve got to know each other,” he said, “suppose you tell me what you are doing here?”
The waiter came and took the order for drinks. He seemed to know Myra Shumway. They smiled and nodded to each other.
When he had gone, Myra opened her handbag and took out a silver cigarette case. She lit the cigarette, and leaned back, looking at them thoughtfully. “Would it interest you?” she said. “I wonder. Still, I am accepting your hospitality. I’ve no secrets. Until yesterday, I was foreign correspondent to the Chicago News. I’ve been cast aside like a worn-out glove.” She turned on Bogle. “Do I look like a worn out glove?”
“Not a glove,” Bogle said heavily.
Myra absorbed this. “I think I asked for that,” she said to Ansell, “I led with my chin.” Bogle was pleased with himself. “I can be funny too, sister,” he said.
She nodded, “You can, but
“All right, all right,” Bogle said hastily, “we won’t fight. I know something about newspaper guys. They’re poison if you cross ’em. I recollect once I didn’t fix one of ’em with a case of Scotch. Did that guy turn sour? He smeared my mug right across the front page. Got me into a helluva jam.” Bogle scratched his head mournfully, “Mind you, that’s some time ago, but these guys don’t change.”
“It could be that,” she returned. “My boss kept silk-worms. You wouldn’t believe the number of girls he interested. I guess they thought the silk-worms were going to give them silk stockings, but it turned out to be a modem version of the Etching gag.”
The waiter came with the drinks.
“He lost interest in me when I told him I was allergic to silk-worms. Maybe, that’s why I’ve been tossed out.” She picked up her drink, “Here’s gold in your bridge work!” she said and drank.
The others drank too.
“Well, you can’t be interested in me,” she went on. “What do you do for a living?”
Ansell fiddled thoughtfully with his glass. I’m a healer,” he said simply. “I’ve studied the secrets of herbal medicine for years and I have perfected several remarkable remedies. Bogle is my assistant.”
She looked at him admiringly, “Isn’t that cute,” she said. “And what are these remedies?” Ansell had an uneasy suspicion that she was laughing at them. He looked at her sharply, but her admiration seemed genuine enough.
“Take my Virile tablets for instance,” he said. “If you’d seen Bogle before he had taken a course of these pills you wouldn’t have believed that he’d been alive to-day. He was thin, weak and depressed…”
She turned and regarded Bogle with interest. Bogle smirked. “Well, he certainly looks like he takes his daily dozen with a knife and fork now,” she said. “He’s a credit to you.”
Ansell pulled his nose thoughtfully. “Then there’s my bust developer,” he said and exchanged a quick glance with Bogle. “That in itself’s a remarkable invention. It’s brought happiness to hundreds of women.”
Myra looked at him in astonishment, “Psychologically, I suppose?”
“What’s she say, Doc?” Bogle asked, looking blank.
“In a way,” Ansell returned, ignoring Bogle. “But a good figure’s an asset to a woman in any country. I’ve some remarkable testimonials.”
Bogle leaned forward, “You ought to try a box, sister,” he said hoarsely. “Two bucks fifty. It’s dynamite!”
Ansell broke in hastily, “Now come, Bogle, that’s not complimentary. I’m sure Miss—er— Shumway’s a very nice figure.”
Bogle sneered, “She got tossed out of her job, didn’t she?”
“That would have nothing to do with it,” Ansell returned. “Of course, I’m not saying it wouldn’t make a big difference, but I’m sure Miss Shumway is quite satisfied with her figure as it is.”
Myra looked from Ansell to Bogle in bewilderment. “Up to now,” she said, “I thought it was pretty good…”
“Don’t be over confident,” Bogle said. “You can’t stand still these days. Progress, that’s what you gotta am for. Look at the way they’re developing the land.” He produced a pill box from his pocket and slapped it down in front of her.
“You’ve got to think and plan big, sister. Look at the pyramids. The guy who built them had a big mind. A box of this stuff and you’re way out front. You get confidence, see? The other dames get left in the cold. If you’ve got what it takes, it don’t matter if you have dandruff. You’re okay. And this is the stuff that’ll make you okay. It’ll take more than a silk-worm to louse up your job. Get figure conscious. Here, take the box. It’ll cost you two bucks. I’ll give you a fifty cent discount because I like you.”
Myra shook her head, “But I don’t want them,” she said.
“That’s what you think now,” Bogle persisted. “You’re young. Salt it away. It lasts for ever. You may never see us again. Wait ‘til you’re old. Wait ‘til some guy gives you the air.
She lifted her hands to her nose and made a little grimace. “Mind if I wash?” she said. “I’m all over beer.” She smiled brightly at them and swept away to the caf?.
Bogle watched her go. “What do you make of her, Doc?” he asked. “She came over here as tough as rusty nails, then she fell for my line like, a stupid native dope. Think there’s anything to her?”
Ansell was puzzled. “I don’t know,” he said frankly. “She’s too nice looking to be on her own. That’s what makes me suspicious. She’s too good to be true.”
Bogle said: “I don’t think I’d make that dame. She’s got a tongue like a razor. Suppose we blow before she comes back? I know her type. A dame who turns a guy down with silkworms ain’t going to play with me.”
Ansell signalled a waiter. “You’re improving, Bogle,” he said, looking pleased. “There was a time a good looking young woman could tie you in knots. Yes, I think you’re right. I see no reason why we should stay here. Anyway, we have work to do.” He groped for his wallet. “I’m quite sure that she can look after herself—” he broke off and stared wildly at Bogle.
“What’s the matter?” Bogle asked sharply.
“My money!” Ansell spluttered, going through his pockets feverishly, “It’s gone!”
“Gone?” Bogle repeated stupidly. “What do you mean gone?”
His eyes suddenly darkened and he began to search in his own pockets. The two dollars that Myra had given him for the box of pills and the five dollar bill he had saved were no longer to be found.
The two men stared at each other.
“The oldest, hoariest trick in the world,” Ansell said, trembling with rage. “And we fell for it. She knocked beer over me and shook rne down for what I’d got. That wasn’t enough for her. She frisked you as well.”
“What the hell are we waiting for?” Bogle snarled, kicking back his chair. “We’ve gotta nail that dame.”
The waiter came up with the check. He glanced at Bogle’s congested face and a look of alarm came into his eyes. “Is anything wrong, tenors?” he asked.
“We’ve been robbed,” Bogle snarled. “Get out of the way.”
“But the Senorita has gone,” the waiter said. “She has never robbed our clients before they settled their check. That is very bad of her.”
Bogle and Ansell stared at each other. “What do you mean?” Ansell demanded. “Do you know this girl?”
“Why, yes.” The waiter smiled, “she is very beautiful and she has very clever fingers. She comes here often. It is good for her line of work.”
Bogle clenched his fists. “What about us?” he said furiously. “Don’t we get any protection?”
The waiter lifted apologetic shoulders, “But the tenors asked her to their table. I thought you knew her.”
“Let’s get out of here, Bogle,” Ansell said. “We asked for it.”
“But, there is the question of the check,” the waiter said, looking distressed.
“Take it off the blonde when she’s in next time,” Bogle said. “And tell her from me that if I ever meet her again I’ll take her apart and find out what makes her tick.”
The waiter’s face darkened. “That is bad business, senor, she may not come back.”
Bogle didn’t quite like the look in his eye. “I don’t want you to lose by it,” he said. “Tell me, buddy, have you a girl friend?”
The waiter’s face brightened. “I have a very fine girl,” he said, flashing his teeth. “There is no other woman like her in the country.”
Bogle took out a pill box and gave it to him. “Make sure of that,” he said. “That’s worth two bucks fifty. I’ll make you a present of it.”
The waiter examined the box. Then he sneered. “She has had them before,” he said disdainfully. “The last time she took them she came out in a rash.”
“So what?” Bogle said, pushing him aside. “It gave her something to do, didn’t it?” and he walked across the patio with Ansell out into the street.