Review: Science Fiction Short Story: "The Ambulance Made Two Trips" by Murray Leinster
January 26, 2017 8:31am CST
Someone is showering members of local law enforcement with gifts. Most cops aren’t blind as to the source of the largesse: gangster Big Jake Connors. Their wives, however, like the mink stoles and other dainties. But unmarried Detective Sergeant Fitzgerald (…sly use of the author’s real name here) curses when he receives an anonymous package containing a fine meerschaum pipe of the type he’s longed for irrationally for years. He can’t keep it. He despises the mob takeover of his town and the protection rackets they run. One day he meets the owner of a dry cleaning business who is completely unafraid of unafraid of Big Jake and his organization. He’s been lucky up until now. Just the other day, four hoods were cruising the area near his business. One took out a sawed off shotgun. A piece of shot went through a window. Another piece took off a chunk of the driver’s hair. It rattled him enough that he drove into a telephone pole. When the cops got there, they found the four hoods, each with police records you could paper a house with, out cold. They also found four sawed-off shotguns and a tommy gun in the back seat. “I was wondering about the window,” the owner of the dry cleaning shop says as Det. Fitzgerald informs him of all this. As it turns out, the owner knows a bit more than he is saying, and he’s happy to take the detective into his confidence. He warns him that if his eyes start blinking, it’s a sign bad things are going to start happening. This is a silly little story, full of slapstick and magic where the bad guys get their comeuppance by being made to look foolish in addition to bumps and bruises. One guy, whose specialty is arson, actually has his pants catch on fire while riding on a bus. It’s almost Disnesyesque. At the same time, it is a fun way to spend a half hour or so, but doesn’t bear up under a second read. Author Murray Leinster (penname for William Fitzgerald Jenkins) was the first author known to use the idea of parallel universes in a story. He also was the first known author to use the idea of a universal translator. Additionally, he invented a special effects procedure known as front projection. His 1964 novel, The Time Tunnel, used a wormhole connecting the years 1904 and 1964. This led to a television series The Time Tunnel (1966-1967), loosely based on the book. This story is available from Project Gutenberg and as an audiobook from Librivox: _____ Title: “The Ambulance Made Two Trips” Author: Murray Leinster (pseudonym for William Fitzgerald Jenkins 1896-1975) First published: Astounding/Analog of Science Fact and Fiction April 1960 Source: ISFDB *An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion on myLot.*
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• United States
The owner of the dry cleaning business is magically immune to the any harm the gangsters wish to inflict on him. Straight up pulp fiction when an arsonist's pants catch on fire while he's riding the bus? Think he might get booted from the Firebugs' local?