Chapter Thirty

   In the basement, a typical high-rise apartment building basement, obscured behind a tangle of pipes and water meters and laundry machines, was Maureen, my girlfriend (her characterization), tied to a chair and gagged. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Vinnie was telling the aforementioned driver Bobby how to dispose of the aforementioned Carmine, the late loose-lipped henchman.
   "Take him out to the Island, chop him up into little pieces, freeze and label each of the pieces, then come back here for more instructions," Vinnie commanded Bobby.
   Bobby seemed confused. "Where do I keep all the pieces?" he asked.
   "In the freezer, stupid. Otherwise, everything'll stink."
   Maureen tried to loosen the ropes, but she was getting nowhere. And she had no idea if I was on my way. It just so happened that I was. The elevator, however, was still only at the twenty-ninth floor, so it would be a few minutes before I'd be able to rescue her. And, if you're wondering why I never thought to get out of the elevator and take the stairs, well, where were you when I needed you?
   (Editor's Note: We are in receipt of a court-ordered deposition calling for the immediate cessation of all writing on this project. This complaint was filed by the H.J. Heinz Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is in regard to a reference to one of their products, Heinz Ketchup, which they claim they did not authorize for use here. What do you know about this?)
   What do I know about it? Nothing. So I wrote the words "Heinz Ketchup" -- so what? I said good things about it. Did they even read what I wrote?
   (Editor's Note: I don't know. But you can't go around getting sued like this. We have to pay for the lawyers, the lawyers' assistants, the secretaries, the kid who gets the coffee, the coffee, the coffee cups, the -- )
   I get the point. Look, the elevator's about to reach the basement, I have to go and rescue Maureen. Why don't you deal with it, and let me know how it comes out. Tell Heinz I didn't mean it. Tell them I like their Vegetarian Beans, okay? Tell them.
   (Editor's Note: All right, all right.)
   The elevator doors opened, but it wasn't the basement, it was the lobby. A large family, I mean large, stepped on.
   "Going down," I offered, but they didn't care. The mother, I guess it was, pressed the button for the penthouse.
   "Going down," I repeated, louder, and firmer, but they still didn't care. The doors closed and we started to go -- up! -- no, down! -- no -- up! Down! Up! Down! What should it be? If I go back up then it's dealing with new people, new descriptions, coming up with new names, dialogue -- but if the elevator goes down, then I get out, and that's that. (Watch it -- Ed.)
   Down we went, to the basement. The doors opened, I got out, and as the doors closed I realized I would never see those people again. Kind of sad, really. Anyway, I immediately looked around for any sign of Maureen. It was quiet, very quiet, but not too quiet. Just quiet enough, I'd say. They might have left already, I thought. It was possible. And if they did, and they were keeping her in a place that I couldn't possibly find in a million years, then it would be pretty dumb to get involved in what would be, in essence, nothing more than a wild goose chase, so I decided to go back upstairs.
   I walked to the elevator, pressed the button, and waited.
   According to the floor indicator, the elevator was only up to the fifteenth floor, and still rising.
   These elevators are so slow. Not like Otis Elevators, the first and the best! (What? -- Ed.)
   "Help! Help me! Help!"
   Probably going to the penthouse again! I don't know why I put up with this. Why do I?
   "Help! Help!"
   It's crazy, just crazy. Twenty-three, twenty-four. Ridiculous.
   Sure, I know. Someone, probably Maureen, is screaming her head off back there, and I'm ignoring it. I'm going back upstairs. I've made my decision. Sure, most detective/mystery/action stories like this usually feature a savvy, courageous protagonist -- Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, Mike Hammer -- and sure, this would make an exciting scene, me versus the Mafia, fighting to save Maureen from imminent danger and what have you, but I made up my mind to go back upstairs and that's what I'm going to do. It's in the past, so forget it. And if I decide to go back and change it, well, you wouldn't know it and I wouldn't be discussing it. Got that?
   "Help! Help! Help!" The cries were getting fainter. The elevator began to descend -- suddenly I thought, what the hell! and I turned and ran to the storeroom where I thought the cries were coming from and blasted my way inside, a man possessed -- though not overly.
   The first person I saw was Bobby, his feet propped up on an overturned laundry hamper, reading the newspaper -- Maureen's newspaper! -- maybe. I kicked his feet off the hamper.
   "Get up, you low life!" I think I surprised him.
   "Who are you?" he wondered, getting up while at the same time cleverly folding and pocketing the section of the paper with the book reviews.
   "Me? I'm the author, and I'm telling you to get out -- before I have to write more dialogue for you!"
   He looked at me like I was stark-raving mad, which, in turn, made him look like he was stark-raving mad. How ironic. Anyway, he threw on a wet shirt and ran like the wind. I had to laugh. Well, not really.
   Next stop was big and tough Vinnie, who was just as I described him, big and tough. Vinnie wouldn't be so easy to deal with.
   "Hey, you -- where do you think you're going?" he growled, and stepped in front of me, blocking my path.
   "Me? I'm just going back there, behind the pipes, to rescue Maureen from you bums. Now, if you don't mind -- "
   Didn't work.
   "Your shoelaces are untied," he pointed out, suddenly trying to be helpful, but when I bent over to look he sucker-punched me! I came to a moment later only to see Vinnie -- and Bobby -- standing over me, grinning from ear to ear.
   "Where ya goin'?" asked Vinnie, lighting a stick of dynamite.
   "No more dialogue, my ass!" Bobby added.
   "What are you going to do with that lit stick of dynamite?" I inquired, naturally curious.
   "Wouldn't you like to know." Vinnie smirked. He looked over at Bobby, who also smirked.
   "I'd like to know, to be quite honest," I confessed, but not smirking. "I'm writing this right now and I don't know what to do with that lit stick of dynamite. I thought you might know what to do with it."
   "How would I know?" responded Vinnie, getting a little uncomfortable all of a sudden. "I ain't the writer."
   "Tell you what, Vinnie, you wait here with Bobby while I go back there and get Maureen -- we're gonna grab a cab and, you know, get the hell out of here. What do you think?"
   "I don't know what to think."
   And with that I got up quickly -- the fuse was getting shorter and shorter -- and went back to where Maureen was pretending to be tied to a chair. I loosened the ropes, removed the gag, and we ran, we ran! It was an exhilarating feeling, take my word for it.

(This ends Chapter Thirty, which was, and I hope I'm not being too immodest, a dandy little chapter.)

Chapter Thirty-one