Dick Spanner, the remarkable robotic private investigator from a parallel universe not far from here, has just completed a report on his latest case. In an A21 exclusive, he recounts the details of a particularly challenging assignment.
“The name’s Spanner, Dick Spanner – Private Investigator.
It was midday, the streets were jumping. I could hear the concrete rising and falling even from my 16th floor apartment. My office is on the 15th floor, but you already heard that story.
The door opened and this guy walked in. He was holding a cane pointed at the ceiling. I knew a stick-up when I saw one and went for my 45 with the hair trigger. I got a hare alright, but no trigger. The bunny decided to hop it, but there was no easy escape for yours personally.
Then the guy lowered the cane, it wasn’t a stick-up at all, I’d just come unstuck. He said his name was Herr Line, seemed he was the head of a travel company that had lost a few planes lately. Line wanted me to investigate the disappearances and find where they’d gone and said no fee was too high. I wasn’t so sure, sounded like the kind of case that would give me a raise.
I spent most of the next few days around the airport looking for clues. Turned out the terminal was really on the mend, the escalators were up and down the guys in the control tower were always looking down at me.
I figured to get anywhere, I’d have to leave by the first plane I could find, which just happened to be an old Night Freight aircraft. Maybe ‘scare-craft’ would have been a better name, it looked like a deathtrap, and I’ve seen my fair share of those.
The pilot was a heavyset guy and looked very familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on him (I was sitting too far back and my arms aren’t that long). We lifted off on a wing and a prayer. Personally, I’d have preferred two wings and an engine.
The pilot said we were getting near the spot where the other planes disappeared, then he added that there was a big storm brewing ahead and I didn’t like the sound of it.
Our plane rocked in the storm like a kite in a hurricane. That’s when it hit me – the bolt of lightning. It struck the plane and was illuminating in more ways than one.
The pilot crashed to the floor, his beard and cap fell off to reveal the face of Mendoza! I tried for my 45 again and ended up holding a blanket. Well, I still had Mendoza covered.
The plane rolled again and he struggled free. He said it was time to bail. What the heck was he talking about? There wasn’t a piece of hay in the place! But there was no time to worry about that, Mendoza had jumped out and was parachuting to safety, leaving yours personally high and dry.
I rolled up to the controls and tried to make sense of them, but I was up in the air. I stepped outside to get some fresh air and think. Another dumb move.
I was already falling faster than the darned plane, and this was one time I couldn’t just wing it. Then I saw something ahead and below, something white glinting in the moonlight – Mendoza’s chute!
Somehow I managed to steer myself towards it and at the last second I grabbed hold of his back. Sure, it was a desperate move and I knew if I was going to survive the fall there’d be strings attached.
The ground rushed up too quickly for my liking and in a tangle of canopy and vines I landed in a heap at the base of a tropical tree. Two hard-shelled fruit dropped down and cracked open on my head. Guess I’d milked the landing, but nuts to that, where’d Mendoza got to?
There was an angry shout from somewhere up above and I looked up to see the guy dangling by his torn chute from the top of the tree. I knew he’d have to branch out to get to the root of that problem, but his bark was worse than his bite. I decided to leaf him alone and call O’Grady on my miniature long-range walkie-talkie.
Would you believe it, a portable smoke signal kit! Well, you win some, you lose some. I set to work making a fire to send the signal and it wasn’t long before O’Grady and his undercover man arrived.
We searched the jungle and found the missing planes, but by the time we got back to arrest Mendoza, he’d disappeared into thin air. Herr Line was thrilled to get his aircraft back and sent me on an all-expenses paid vacation to say thanks. I thought a trip to the beach was just what I needed, but- Well, you’ll have to wait and sea….