Boleslaw Szymanski Gets the Ogden Slip

Confounding SF

Doctor Dilvish Vice, MD, PhD, DSc, LLD, DD, NHL, DDS sat in his secret penthouse high atop the Chicago Spire. He reached up to let his genetically enhanced aye-aye crawl from his shoulder to his arm and began to absent-mindedly scratch its head. Across from him, Elaine Ecdysiast sat tied firmly to an armchair Vice had acquired on his most recent visit to the Chicago History Museum. According to the plaque, it had been used by Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.

"Even if Boleslaw Szymanski does manage to find you here, you know that there is no escape," Vice said. "I just can't let anyone who knows about the 149½ floor of the Spire to ever leave it. Unless I know I can trust them implicitly. And I'm afraid that you, Miss Ecdysiast, and Mr. Szymanski, just won't ever fall into that category."

Her mouth gagged, Elaine blinked exactly what she thought of Vice in Morse code. He laughed and left the room. Just before the door closed, the aye-aye leapt from his shoulder and remained in the room, staring quizzically at Elaine.

Elaine began to blink again, hoping that the aye-aye had learned Morse code. A few blinks and winks later, the aye-aye had jumped to the chair and pulled the gag from her mouth.

"Thanks," she chattered at the creature in its own language. "With my allergies as bad as they are, I just couldn't breathe. Doesn't Vice ever have a cleaning service in here? I think I have some grapes in my purse if you're hungry."

The aye-aye leapt to where Elaine's handbag lay discarded by Dr. Vice, and helped himself to a bunch of grapes. Once the bag was open, Elaine used her carefully trained mind to psionically grasp the Andorran army knife, which was disguised as a compact, she kept in her bag. Unfortunately, her psionics weren't quite strong enough and it clattered to the floor. The aye-aye, picked up the knife, opened it to the scissor-attachment, and began to carefully clip the grape stems off the fruits before popping them into its mouth.

***

Boleslaw Szymanski sat a few blocks west of the Spire at the Billy Goat Tavern, trying to convince the grillman that it was okay not to put cheese on his hamburger. The grillman wasn't buying it and dropped a cheeseburger in front of the hero. As Boleslaw picked up his lunch and found an empty table, he muttered, "See what happens next time you need saving from diabolical evil," but by that time, the grillman had turned his attention to the next customer.

It wasn't like Elaine to be this late. She was supposed to have met him immediately after her interview with Dr. Einstein Marconi, the eminent Oxford physicist who was writing a biography of her.

As he tucked into his cheeseburger, Boleslaw dialed Elaine on his cell phone.

"Hello, Boleslaw, it is so good to hear your voice. I was hoping you'd call."

"Who is this," he asked around a mouth of bun and beef. "Why are you answering Elaine's phone?"

"I'm hurt that you don't recognize my voice. Its Dilvish, your ago-old nemesis. I'm answering Elaine's phone because I really couldn't let her keep it after I took her hostage. I mean, that's just super-villain cliché number 47."

"If you harm one hair on her head..."

"Now, really, Boleslaw, if you think this is about her, you're even dumber that I think you are, which I didn't really think possible. No, this is about you. I figured this was a sure way to get your attention, and with Elaine under wraps, she won't be able to rescue you when my plans fall into place."

"You think I don't know where you're keeping her? I know all about your secret lair beneath the statue of Michael Jordan at the United Center."

"You're a little behind the times, Boleslaw. I abandoned that office after you defeated my plan to kidnap Mayor Carter Daley."

"So, then you must have her in the groundskeeper's apartment at Wrigley Field."

"They evicted me after you destroyed the outfield trying to arrest me." Boleslaw thought Dilvish's voice sounded a bit petulant. "Anyway, I weary of this guessing game. You don't know where my new offices are and I won't tell you. But I will meet you in a public place. Below 'Cloud Gate' in Millennium Park. Can you be there in half an hour?"

"I can be anywhere. But what is 'Cloud Gate'?"

"You probably know it better as 'The Bean.'"

"Right. In half an hour." Boleslaw hung up the phone.

***

Millennium Park was crowded. It usually was, making it one of the most successful government boondoggles since Alexander decided to take a vacation in Egypt. Dilvish walked around the mirrored sculpture enjoying the amusement house reflections and looking for Szymanski in the crowd of tourists. Although tradition would have dictated a black suit, cape and topper, the 93° day with matching humidity called for a pair of cargo shorts and a polo shirt.

He finally spotted Szymanski lying in the hollow under the Bean, making faces at his own reflection. Dilvish called his archenemy's name.

Szymanski sat up quickly, cracking his head on the silvery surface. He crab-walked out of the hollow and stood up, rubbing the lump that was already forming.

"What have you done with her?" Szymanski demanded through clenched teeth.

"Really, Boleslaw, no 'Hi, how are you?' no 'haven't seen you since the trial,' just straight to business. Just because I'm your nemesis doesn't mean we can't behave civilly towards each other. Come, join me, have a hotdog."

"I've already eaten." Again through clenched teeth.

"You should talk to your dentist about that. I need a hot dog, come on."

The two men walked to a small hot dog cart and Dilvish ordered one with everything. As he shook the mustard bottle before adding the condiment, a stray line of mustard shot out, catching Boleslaw in the strong, square jaw.

"Watch it!" he shouted before collapsing into a jellified heap on the sidewalk.

The hot dog man ran around and helped Dilvish shove the unconscious hero into a hollow in the hot dog cart's base.

"That anaesthetizing stuff really worked well, Dr. D.," he said as they locked the panel back into place. "Where do ya want me ta take 'im?"

"Let's just get this over with. Push the cart into the lake from the end of Navy Pier."

"That's like two miles away. I hope you remember this come bonus time."

"Don't worry, I will." Vice said, coldly.

***

Elaine sprang from the chair, grateful that the contortionism classes she took had paid off. As she ran from the room, Vice's aye-aye jumped to her shoulder, chittering affection into her ear. She found the elevator and quickly descended to the lobby, getting strange looks from the mother and daughter who got on at the 112th floor when they saw the animal. They pushed to the furthest point of the elevator for the ear-popping ride down.

Elaine and the aye-aye, who had told her that his name was Hambo, burst out onto the street. Her eye was caught by a hot dog vender pushing his cart along Lake Shore Drive.

"That seems like a weird place to try to sell hot dogs," she said to Hambo.

Hambo chattered a response in her ear.

"He looks familiar? You know the street hot dog vendors? I thought aye-aye's were mostly fructivores."

More chittering.

"One of Dr. Vice's henchmen?"

Chitter.

Elaine took off running. Hambo dropped to the ground and tried to keep up, dodging pedestrians and traffic as they closed in on the ersatz food vendor.

"Stop," Elaine shouted and the vendor, drenched in sweat, turned around to face her, pulling a nasty looking knife from his hot dog cart.

Elaine stopped and launched a round-house kick at his head.

At the same time, she heard a gun cock and caught sight of Dr. Dilvish Vice aiming a strange weapon at her. She flinched, and failed to connect her foot with the vendor's face. Hambo leapt up on Vice's arm and sank his teeth into Vice's forearm, causing his shot of electricity to disperse into the air above Lake Shore Drive.

***

Boleslaw Szymanski awoke to utter darkness. His body was folded uncomfortably in a small metal box, uncomfortable enough in the heat and humidity of a Chicago August, made worse by the smell and heat of hot dogs boiling inches from his face.

From outside the box, he could hear the sounds of cars honking and driving past, and also the sounds of hand-to-hand combat, although if it was Elaine, foot-to-hand combat was just as likely.

He kicked at the panel and pushed with his hands, but he was stuck. The apparently thin aluminum of the hot dog cart was reinforced and no amount of brute strength from the inside was enough to open or buckle it. In his admittedly not large imagination, he tried to picture Elaine battling the vendor and rescuing him, knowing that any news coverage would make him out to be the hero, while Elaine would stand looking at him in adoration for the photographers. Boleslaw knew it wasn't fair, but it worked for them.

Suddenly, he felt the hot dog cart lurch and he found himself in free fall, feeling the cheeseburger from the Billy Goat move around in his stomach in an uncomfortable way.

A loud splash was followed by muted silence, with water seeping into the small container. Boleslaw didn't have a good feeling about this.

***

Elaine was just about to apprehend Vice's henchmen when he kicked out and sent his cart tumbling through the air to land with a splash in the Ogden slip. By now she realized that Boleslaw was inside the cart and without thought, she dove into the water of the canal and searched for the cart.

She found it lying on the bottom of the canal. There was a small lock on the side and, pulling a bobby pin from her hair, she quickly set to work picking the lock. As soon as she worked the mechanism, the side panel opened and she pulled Boleslaw from the cart and swam with him to the surface of the slip.

There was a ladder built into the wall of the canal and they swam over to climb out. The reached the sidewalk and looked around the crowd that had gathered. Of Dr. Vice, the hot dog vendor, and Hambo, there was no sign. A reporter and photographer from the Chicago Tribune pushed their way through the crowd and shoved began asking Boleslaw questions.

"How did you know Miss Ecdysiast was in the cart? Was the water cold? When will you capture Dr. Vice?"

The photographer was ignoring Szymanski to turn his lens on Elaine's figure, splendidly shown off by the wet, clingy clothes that only seemed to add to the humidity in the air. Elaine tried to ignore the photographer and listened to the clichéd answers Boleslaw was giving. Dr. Vice would soon be in custody, Boleslaw would continue to keep the law-abiding citizens of Chicago safe from Vice's, or anyone else's, nefarious plans. She was proud that he had finally learned to pronounce "nefarious" properly.

Dilvish Vice had escaped, but Elaine knew that they would soon face each other again, and one one of these days, he would find his rightful place behind the bars in Pontiac Maximum Security. And just a certainly, she knew that whatever she did to put him there, the newspapers would insist on giving Boleslaw all the credit and look at her as the damsel in distress to be rescued.

She sighed.

And the photographer snapped another picture seconds before his camera was thrown into the Ogden Slip.