Fiction

STOP THAT MARRIAGE

ROBERT ZACKS December 1 1949
Fiction

STOP THAT MARRIAGE

ROBERT ZACKS December 1 1949

STOP THAT MARRIAGE

Fiction

Case 1040 — Ann Breckenridge: Greeted young man in drug store with kiss. Kissed him in zoo — kissed him on Broadway while people stared. They are in love. This is serious, boss. Signed — Holloway, Private Detective

ROBERT ZACKS

Gilbert Breckenbridge Associates Engineering Consultants Toronto, Ont.

20 July, 1949.

Fred Sjoberg,

Sjoberg Contracting Supply,

NYC.

Dear Fred,

Please do something for me immediately. My daughter Ann has gone out of her mind. She writes me she’s in love with some long-haired Bohemian in Greenwich Village. I’ve heard of that place. That’s what I get for listening to her nonsense. A nineteen-year-old girl shouldn’t be in N. Y. alone.

I want you to put her on a train immediately and send her home. She’s at the Commodore.

Sincerely,

Gil Breckenbridge.

P. S. If you’d kept an eye on heras l asked you to t his wouldn’t have happened. I’d fly in to N. Y. myself if I weren’t impossibly tied up. I’m counting on you.

Gilbert Breckenbridge Associates Engin wring Associates Toronto, Ont.

20 July, 1949.

Ann Breckenbridge,

Commodore Motel,

NYC.

Ann honey,

Don’t do anything foolish or hasty, that’s all I ask of you. I know how headstrong you are. You hardly know this young man. One foolish act now and your whole life could be wrecked.

What sort of family does the boy come from? And what kind of painting does he do? What is his income?

Baby, you know I’m only looking out for your welfare. Why don’t you hop a train or plane and come home and talk it over. Bring the young man, too. Let’s get acquainted.

Your loving father,

Gil.

P. S. If you get married without me first okaying the boy, you won’t get another penny from me.

Hotel Commodore NYC

23 July, 1949.

Gil Breckenbridge,

Gilbert Breckenbridge Associates,

Toronto.

Dear Father,

I am quite sure of what I’m doing. I love Pete dearly. I won’t bring him up to see you because I know exactly what will happen. You’ll give Pete the business. So I’m going to marry him before you can stop us. Pete is a struggling artist with lots of talent. He hasn’t any money and his father is a bookkeeper in Kansas and Pete is the youngest of eight children. It would break your heart to hear of their struggles and what Pete goes through trying to sell these stupid art editors who have no appreciation of talent.

Please, father, don’t worry. I’m doing the right tiling. I love him so very dearly. When I’m with him I feel safe and t hrilled at the same time. It’s such an adventure. You’ve sent me on chaperoned European fours twice and gave me my own car and a mink coat, but I never had the fun I have with Pete. We ate in a funny little Italian place. It smelled of garlic but it was nicer than any other place I ever ate because Pete was there.

Darling, I know that you want me to marry in my “class” as you put it. You’re a lovable old stuffed shirt. You forget you have been through all the “classes” yourself in the last fifty years. If I bring Pete up to see you he’ll only be nervous and awed at all the fancy furnishings and you will probably scare the living daylights out of him. He wouldn’t look good at all up there to you.

So please forgive me if your threat to cut me off without a cent lias no effect. Not only is Pete not a fortune hunter. I’m not either.

I’m sure that once you get over the shock you’ll

just love him. I feel awful that you won’t be at the wedding but I’m not going to risk you pulling some of your high-handed stunts.

Your loving daughter, Ann.

Sjoberg Contracting Supply NYC

23 July, 1949.

Gil Breckenbridge,

Gilbert Breckenbridge Associates,

Toronto.

Dear Gil,

I was a little annoyed at first by the tone of your letter. Then, as I looked it over, I got ever more annoyed. Just what do you expect me to do, kidnap her? Ann has a mind of her own.

And I did keep an eye on her. My secretary worked out a whole itinerary for her stay in New York. Shows, museums, night clubs. I had one

of the office clerks accompany her, a nice, safe guy named Pearson, just her height so she could handle him if he got fresh. And I can’t imagine Pearson getting fresh.

It isn’t my fault she took that sightseeing bus and ended up in the Village.

However, rather than have you burst a blood vessel and so lose your business, I will look in on this guy. What’s his name? His address? I hope the engineering consulting you are doing is more complete than the information you expect me to act on.

Relax, you old walrus.

Affectionately,

Fred.

CPR TELEGRAPH TORONTO

JULY 25, 1949

FRED SJOBERG

SJOBERG CONTRACTING SUPPLY NY—DON'T BE STUPID, FRED, YOU DON’T THINK SHE TOLD ME THE NAME OR ADDRESS? SHE KNOWS I'D TRY TO STOP IT. SHE'S TRYING TO SOFTEN ME UP. GET DETECTIVE FOLLOW HER. WHERE'S YOUR INITIATIVE AND IMAGINATION? HURRY. WHO KNOWS WHAT FOOL THING SHE'S DOING. GIL.

Sjoberg Contracting Supply NYC

25 July, 1949.

Gilbert Breckenbridge

Gilbert Breckenbridge Associates,

Toronto.

Dear Gil,

Ann checked out of the Commodore. I guess she knew you’d get excited about this. But don’t worry, I hired the McBranty Detective Agency. They’re a good outfit. Not only did they find her right away (at the Astor) but she doesn’t know she’s being checked.

The way I see the situation, Gil, there’s no point in doing just what Ann expects you to do, rush in like a bull in a china shop. I’ve given orders that I’m to be informed if there’s any sign of a preacher being hired or a wedding being arranged. If that happens then I’ll reluctantly step in and plead with them to wait. That’s about all I can do.

I’m having a complete report of the young man’s background and day-to-day reports of his activit ies sent to you, with carbon copies sent to me. The detective assigned will shadow Ann until she visits the young man. From then on you’ll get a good idea of what’s up.

Why don’t you quit trying to live Ann’s life? Haven’t you any confidence in the way you’ve brought her up?

Fred.

CPR TELEGRAPH TORONTO

JULY 27, 1949

FRED SJOBERG—SJOBERG CONTRACTING CO. NY—IF ANN MARRIES THAT LONG HAIR OUR FRIENDSHIP AND BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP IS FINISHED. YOUR CARELESSNESS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS SO YOU BETTER STRAIGHTEN IT OUT IF YOU KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR YOU. WON’T HAVE ANN RUINING LIFE BECAUSE OF INEXPERIENCE. SHE'S JUST A CHILD. GILBERT BRECKENBRIDGE.

Sjoberg Contracting Supply NYC

27 July, 1949.

Joe McBranty,

McBranty Detective Agency,

NYC.

Dear Joe,

Here is the telegram enclosed that I spoke to you about on the phone. You’ve done many a neat confidential job for me, Joe, but believe this is the most important. Most of my Canadian business is done with Breckenbridge or through his influence. He’s an old pal but as hct-headed a pirate as ever made his million. His daughter is the apple of his eyes (and what an apple) and if she marries this artist guy I’m cooked. No kidding, it’s that serious.

So, first get the dope on him, and if if looks like a wedding don’t hesitate to use some brute force. Slug him if necessary and shanghai him to China or something. Anything, but no wedding. See?

Sincerely,

Fred Sjoberg

Continued on page 49

Continued from page 11

McBranty Detective Agency NYC

28 July, 1949.

Fred Sjoberg,

Sjoberg Supply,

NYC.

Dear Fred,

1 wish you’d show a little more discretion. You should never put such requests in writing. I’m destroying your letter. We’ll do a good job, don’t worry, though right now I can’t spare more than one man. Business is terrific. Divorces, blackmail and insurance frauds, you know. Put two men on as soon as I can.

Sincerely,

Joe.

McBranty Detective Agency NYC

Case 1040—Ann Breckenbridge

Assigned to Holloway Report No. 1—to Mr. McBranty Forward to

Gilbert Breckenbridge,

Gilbert Breckenbridge Associates,

Toronto.

Copy — Sjoberg Contracting Supply— NYC. .

Operative located young lady at Astor Hotel via questioning of doorman, bellboys, taxicab driver and a few telephone calls. Young lady did not register under different name.

Very easy to shadow this person. Hair is golden blond, figure excellent, walks determinedly. Can follow her in a crowd by merely watching long line of male heads turn. Used to being stared at so doesn’t notice operative much. Used to being followed, too, I think.

Young lady met gentleman drugstore lunch counter. Greeted with passionate

kiss. Everybody stared. Kissers oblivious of everybody. Gentleman about twenty-five, thin, lanky, tall. Has crew haircut. Very gloomy, harried expression, despite obvious joy in kissing young lady. His name is Pete. Heard girl call him that. They ate hamburgers and malted milks. He didn’t have enough to pay check. Young lady paid check. Gentleman carried huge portfolio. Shadowed couple. They walked holding hands till 3 p.m. Went to Central Park Zoo. Talked in low, earnest tones, couldn’t catch words. He seemed to be very bitter. Opened portfolio, showed something, waved angrily, closed portfolio and looked up at heavens, shaking fist wildly. Seems queer person.

Followed gentleman when couple parted at 5 p.m.

He went to Greenwich Village. Lives on ground floor of old brownstone. I queried local grocer, had a drink in local bar, and, using excuse of looking for an apartment, rang super’s bell in young man’s house. Results follow:

Grocer—Young man pays his bills but eats poorly. Full name Pete Stanford. Free-lance artist. Very quiet. Never discusses business with grocer. This annoys grocer. Grocer sure young man is a spy as he seems to frequent waterfront a lot, making sketches. Grocer asked, eagerly, if I’m from FBI. Said I wasn’t. Grocer winked.

Bartender—Bartender uncommunicative in the extreme.

Landlady—Landlady is super too. Huge woman with suspicious face. She said she’d be having a vacancy soon as young man in basement apartment (one room) moves shortly. She said it was all right with her too, because of goings on. Highly immoral. She peered through back-yard window last week and saw nude woman posing for painting.

Asked when he’s moving. Answer, doesn’t know. Paid up till end of month (one week away) and may leave

any day. I asked what remt was. Sixty dollars a month. Told her 1 wanted me»re than one room for such money.

Diner on corner nearby. Ate and kept an eye on brownstone house through window. Had to leave plate of Irish stew in middle as Pete came out dressed in new dark suit, starched white shirt, red tie. This made me think fast. What if he’s getting married right away? Orders to stop marriage might be difficult to carry out. Debated whether to slug him and call taxi or what?

Followed Pete to store nearby, headquarters for a moving-van company. Loitered outside door listening, lighting cigarette. Possible to hear every word. Pete made arrangements to move in three days. Haggling over price of fifteen dollars per hour. Young man wanted to know how many hours since old apartment is on ground floor and new apartment >s only up three steps. Wanted maximum price set. Moving man refused to set maximum. Young man started to walk out. Moving man called him back, said he’d make approximation after looking over furniture to be moved.

(Jot general impression of young man who doesn’t throw money around. So did moving-van people.

Followed Pete to subway, uptown to Astor Bar, where he and young lady engaged in passionate kiss. People staring, amused. Couple oblivious of people. Followed them to Museum of Science and Industry in Rockefeller Plaza where Pete proceeded to demonstrate great interest in gadgets. Young lady wore adoring look on her face as she watched him play with gadgets. Mother instinct, maybe. She asked how come he studied art when he was so interested in science. Young man launched in fervent discussion of relation between art and science and so forth. Very abstract. Couldn’t follow. Don’t think young lady did either, though she seemed to enjoy it greatly. Lecture finished by young man with statement that as youngest of eight children he never had chance to do fixing of plumbing or painting the rooms, as other brothers did. Left him with great desire to fix and paint. Seems silly to me.

Young man then took Miss Breckenbridge to her hotel and said good-by in street. Kissed goodnight passionately. Lasted at least minute, until cop tapped young man on shoulder.

Followed young man home. Waited outside until 5 a.m. Could see through window young man was packing to move. Light went out at 5 a.m.

Period covered 11 a.m. July 27 to f> a.m. July 28. Very groggy. Suggest Smitty be assigned to case too, if possible. Wedding can’t be far away. Might be as soon as young man has moved.

signed,

Holloway.

CPR TELEGRAPH TORONTO

JULY 29, 1949

FRED SJOBERG—-SJOBERG CONTRACTING SUPPLY— NYC—REPORT SHOWS HOW SERIOUS SITUATION IS. AM TAKING PLANE TO NEW YORK. WILL BE AT COMMODORE. SEND REPORTS THERE. STOP THAT WEDDING!

GILBERT BRECKENBRIDGE.

McBranty Detective Agency NYC

Case 1040 Ann Breckenbridge Assigned to Holloway and Smithson Report No. 2 to Mr. McBranty Forward to

Gilbert Breckenbridge,

c/o Commodore Hotel,

NYC.

Copy to Sjoberg Contracting Supply NYC.

Operatives rented car and alternately used it to perform necessary duties.

Taxi too conspicuous. Two days spent by Ann Breckenbridge and Pete Stanford in shopping for curtains and kitchen utensils in various department stores. Girl in a wonderful glow', though now and then she suddenly becomes teary and boy soothes her with passionate kiss.

Boy sent telegram to Kansas announcing marriage (see copy enclosed), and marriage will be in Pete’s new apartment, day after they move in on July 30. New apartment in Fiatbush, Brooklyn, 13th Street and Avenue U. Followed couple there. Rooms number three, nice section with trees and green lawn around the area. Good shopping half a block away.

Couple busy hanging curtains, stopping for long passionate kisses. Pete beginning to notice operatives. Stares hard at us now and then as we walk by. Said something to young lady who turned pale and seized Pete’s arm, murmuring something.

Young man came over to operatives with rather belligerent manner. I asked him genially if he’s moving in to new apartment there. Pete said yes, what about it. Glared at us. I said we’re neighbors and live right up the block a way. Made it vague. Young man asked our names. He’s a sharp kid, was going to check doorbells, I guess. Told him we live in furnished room. Satisfied him. He went back to girl, reassured her. We went up to restaurant on corner and had lunch. Smitty depressed as we ate. Said sometimes he hated his work. Said they’re a couple of nice kids and it was a crying shame that we had to slug the kid and stop the wedding. I agreed with him. But orders are orders. We’ll do the job, boss.

signed Holloway and Smithson. Time covered July 28, 29 to 6 p.m.

McBranty Detective Agency NYC

Case 1040—Ann Breckenbridge Assigned to Holloway and Smithson Report No. 3 to Mr. McBranty Forward to

Gilbert Breckenbridge,

c/o Commodore Hotel,

NYC

Copy to Sjoberg Contracting Supply, NYC.

Operatives agreed with Mr. McBranty on his plan to delay wedding by intercepting preacher and showing him private police credentials. After that we would improvise, and if necessary, use a number of forceful methods, such as arresting the young man on a charge of kidnapping young lady. Mr. Breckenbridge, young lady’s father, will support such a charge.

The above is repeated by operatives so it will be understood that operatives had a clear idea of plans and that it was not our fault the following screwball incidents took place, throwing the whole plan off.

The moving van arrived from old Greenwich Village apartment with furniture at 9 a.m. and were greeted happily by young lady and gentleman.

From the way the moving-van men moved you would think, Mr. McBranty, that we’d paid them to slow up. At fifteen bucks an hour they stopped to tell jokes, consider the situation from every angle, and consult regarding means and methods. It developed that they could get everything in but the couch.

No matter how they tried they couldn’t get the couch in. It measures two inches wider sideways than the doorway and if it Ls stood up on end it still can’t get in because the back of it rises up in the centre, making it three inches wider at that point than the doorway. As they spent more and more time trying to get it in, the time

arrived for the preacher to come to tie the knot and, of course, he didn’t come either.

When Smitty and I came back from having a heart-to-heart talk with the preacher the situation, as we used to say in the army where I was an M.P., was really snafu. The young lady had a grim look on her face and her eyes were blazing with the light of battle. She was telling Pete not to worry. She kissed him and went off to look for another preacher. Meanwhile the couch was out on the sidewalk and the people of the neighborhood were gathering around, attracted by the spirit of the sidewalk superintendents.

Pete was giving the moving men a hot argument. They said it couldn’t be done. He said it could be done. They said go ahead and do it, we can’t. Pete paid them off and sat down on the couch and held his head in his hands like he was sick.

The crowd was getting bigger, standing around giving all sorts of advice. A lady of sixty said it was just too bad, what a pity, now he’d have to throw the couch away. Pete said in a loud voice that he would not. It was a couch that turned into a bed and it cost him three hundred and twenty-five dollars and it was only six months old and he wasn’t going to lose the value in it.

An old guy with big shoulders, dressed in a nice suit, was listening, staring at Pete. He asked Pete what he was going to do. Pete jumped up, looking mad. We’ll get it in, he said. Those moving men are lazy crooks. I’ll take the door off and we’ll move it at an angle. It can be done, if you studied geometry, said Pete grimly. Grab hold there, he said.

Smitty and I were surprised to see he was talking to us. We were neighbors and we’d been friendly, he figured. Anyway, it was an interesting problem. So we grabbed one end of the couch.

Mr. McBranty, I want to tell you that was the heaviest thing I ever tried to lift. It must have weighed four hundred pounds. And clumsy. You couldn’t get a grip on it.

Pete took off the door and the inside door and we followed his instructions. He and the old guy with the shoulders took the other end. Everybody yelled instructions and even the cops came to see what the crowd was about. We worked for an hour but the screwed-on

legs blocked us. So Pete got a hammer and chisel and screw driver and tried to take off the legs. It was an awfully hot day and we all sweated like pigs and one of the cops brought us four cokes. You ever hear of such a thing in your life? It was becoming a neighborhood shindig. Pete got off three of the legs, but the fourth instead of being screwed on was nailed on with a giant spike and he broke the wooden leg getting it oft'.

We were able to get the couch inside the first door and a cheer went up from the crowd. Then they groaned because the wooden banister blocked it. The old guy with the shoulders asked Pete what he was going to do now. Pete got the landlord and told him the situation and asked permission to saw down the section of banister. He let out an awful yell. Pete said he’d pay a carpenter to put it back on again. So Pete called a carpenter who said he’d do it for thirty dollars. It’s better, said Pete, than losing a three hundred twenty-five dollar couch. So the carpenter sawed away the section of banister and the four of us nearly broke our backs moving the couch up the three wooden steps and then we were stuck again. A whole section of wall blocked us by about a three-inch width, where we had to make a turn to the right to get to the door of the apartment.

Well, said the old boy with the shoulders, wiping his sweating face. I guess that’s that. You can’t get it in.

Pete stared at the wall. We’ll knock down the wall, he said, sticking out his jaw. I’ll call a plasterer and find out how much it will cost.

In about fifteen minutes a plasterer came down and said he would do it for one hundred dollars. Okay, said Pete. Go ahead.

Now wait a minute, said this old fellow helping us, very disgusted. It isn’t worth it. You . . .

Pete interrupted. I like this couch, he said. I’ve got an affection for it. I’m sticking to it, unless I really can’t get it in, see? Anyway it’s still worth three hundred twenty-five dollars.

So the plasterer knocked down the .wall and when we pulled it around the turn we found we couldn’t get it past the next wall because of a huge overhead pipe that carried steam or something.

Pete stared at the pipe for about

five minutes and then he said, “Does anybody want to buy a couch?”

It really looked like after all that expense and trouble he was sunk. We all felt pretty bad about it. While we sat down on the steps feeling bad about it Pete went down the block to the corner where there was an upholsterer shop and came back with the owner. Pete asked him if there was any way of removing the sections so that it would get in. The upholsterer said no. It was too solid. Because it was a bed too, the insides were steel. Pete tried to sell it to the upholsterer and was offered fifty dollars.

Take it, said the old guy with the shoulders. Son, you got to learn to take your lickings.

No, said Pete, very mad. It’s worth three thundred twenty-five dollars. It’s only six months old. I’ll put it in the garage and advertise it. for sale.

We all looked at each other. We knew nobody would buy a secondhand bed-couch, even in good condition. When it comes to sleeping, people want a new bed.

We struggled with the couch and brought it outside again and the crowd was still hanging around. There was a tired look on Pete’s face. He squatted on his heels and tried to think. I felt sorry for the guy. Then he stood up and asked if anybody had anything worth while that they wanted to swap for a good couch-bed. He made a nice speech, pointing out they could get a good buy like this on a swap only because of his being unable to get the couch inside the apartment. The plasterer who knocked down the wall said he’d take the couch in payment and throw in a practically new outboard motor worth at least ninety dollars.

Pete grabbed his hand and shook it.

It was a deal. The crowd laughed and cheered. Then Pete, beginning to grin again, stood up again and asked who had what to swap for an outboard motor.

Mr. McBranty, that kid is an awfully game boy. He sure can take it. He sold the outboard motor to the old guy that practically broke his hack helping us carry that couch around. And he got one hundred dollars for it.

Frankly, Mr. McBranty, we’re very glad the marriage went through. We were pretty surprised when the old boy with the shoulders turned out to be Mr. Breckenbridge and we think it was a wonderful way for him to get acquainted with that kid Pete.

The wedding took place at 6 p.m. July 30, 1949.

Smitty and I were witnesses, signed, Holloway and Smithson.

Gilbert Breckenbridge Associates Toronto, Ont.

August 1, 1949.

Fred Sjoberg,

Sjoberg Contracting Supply,

NYC.

Dear Fred,

I am back in Toronto. As you probably know by now from the reports from McBranty, I found Pete a kid with plenty of guts and stick-to-it-ness. 1 like his spirit and very happy my daughter isn’t married to some nambypamby who inherited his money from his old man.

I’ve been rather hard on you, so, as an apology I am sending you a little gift I picked up in a rather peculiar way. It’s an outboard motor, in very good condition. Accept it with my apologies.

Sincerely,

Gilbert Breckenbridge ★