On top of the building a big sign blared, "BENJAMIN THONK, Palmdale's Realtor!" Underneath that, it modestly proclaimed (in italics) "Benny's the Best!"

Inside his office, Benny Thonk shouted "Dammit!" and slammed a newspaper down on his desk.

"What is it, sir?" asked Myra, his elderly secretary/assistant, looking through her horn-rimmed bifocals. She had just come into his office and was standing at his cluttered desk.

Angrily, Benny spread out the paper. "Read that!"

"'The Weekly Standard,'" Myra read, obediently.

"No, no!" the realtor snarled. "The headline. Read the damned headline!"

"'Spooktacular Results,'" she read.

Benny snatched the paper away, crushed it into a ball, and threw it into the wastebasket. "That's it!" he snapped. "That damned Lawson took me for a ride!"

"Sir?" Myra asked. "I remember when you recently bragged about how dumb he was, paying you for what you said was 'that dump I've been trying to get rid of for years'."

"That's what I mean!" Benny said, grinding his teeth. "He tricked me! He took advantage of my weakness! Now the damned Haunted Rialto is the most popular haunted house we've ever had! Paid me two thou to rent that dump for a month, two weeks to remodel, two weeks to do business. Hell, he prob'ly takes in more'n two thou in one night."

Myra frowned in concentration, then said, "Didn't his contract give him the option to buy, for thirty thousand?"

"Yes! And that. . . that gangster will try to hold me to it, I'm sure!" He rammed a hand through his hair. "Myra, get me Big Frank on the phone!"

"Big Frank?" Myra asked, disapproval on her face. "Where do I look for his number -- under 'Gangters' in the yellow pages?"

Throwing his hands up in disgust, Benny said, "Get outta here! I'll call him myself!" But before she left, he heard a strange sound. "Did you giggle, Myra?" he asked.

Obviously affronted, the elderly woman turned, shoulders stiff, and said, indignantly, "I don't giggle!"

As the door closed, Benny shook his head. "I swear I'd fire her, if she wasn't my mother!" Thinking back to the giggle, he looked around the room. "I don't see nuttin'." he mumbled, as he picked up the phone.

'Nuttin' rippled the window curtains as Benny dialed.

+ + +

Countess woefully shook her head at Willy. "Never should have sent Dottie to do anything!" she said.

"What happened?"

"Oh, we've been taking turns keeping an eye on that realtor, since you said he might be up to something."

Willy lifted his bushy eyebrows. "I didn't think you girls could leave this place."

Countess gave him a disdainful look. "Old news, Willy. With all the people going and coming, we can go just about anywhere in Palmdale. Anyway," she went on, "she comes back all excited -- says Benny's mom works for him, and he's calling a giant named Frank about some scrubbing, or something."

"Well," Dottie said, defensively, "that's what I heard!"

Willy's eyes widened. "Giant. . . Frank. . . scrubbing. . . ." He looked at Dottie. "Are you sure it wasn't to a 'big Frank' about some 'cleaning up'?"

Dottie nodded vigorously. "Yes. Yes! That's it!" She looked at Countess. "Y'see, I was right."

Countess eyed Willy. "What's that mean?"

"Big Frank is one of the worst mobsters in Palmdale!" he explained. "I gotta call Uncle Jimmy!" When he had the mayor on the phone, he explained and said, "You've gotta get us some police protection!"

"I'm sorry, Willy," the mayor said. "I agree you'll have trouble if Big Frank has been called in -- but we don't have proof! I can't have the police out there on just hearsay."

"But I did hear him say it!" Dottie insisted.

Recognizing the voice of his favorite ghost, the Honorable James Tweet sighed. "I don't doubt it, Dottie," he said. "Still, you shouldn't have gone there. I ought to come spank you!"

"Ooohh," Dottie murmured. "I'd like that!"

Uncle Jimmy coughed to cover his embarressment. "But even if I heard it myself, I couldn't send cops out on just that."

Wringing her hands, Dottie said, "What are we gonna do?"

+ + +

It was after midnite. Big Frank and his men were standing in front of the Haunted Rialto, smiling at each other. "Heard this place had a big fire, way back," Frank said. He looked at three of his men, each of which had a five gallon can of gasoline. "Let's see if we can't do better! Torch the dump, boys!"

As he said it, the front door swung open and Dottie strode out, wearing only her g-string and tassels. "Hello, big boy," she said, in her best sultry fashion. She strode forward, hips rolling.

"I ain't interested in no broad!" Frank roared. "We got work to do!"

"Broad?" Dottie squealed. "I ain't put on a pound in seventy years!"

"That isn't what he meant -- is it, Frank?" asked Sally, joining Dottie.

"Just get outta my way!" Frank roared. "I got work to do! I ain't gonna stand around watchin' broads --"

"Like they say, Frank," Countess said, stepping out, "'you ain't seen nothing yet'." She looked at Jean, who had just joined them. "Show 'em, Jean," she said.

The redhead swirled her hair around her head. It spread and spread -- and suddenly burst into flame; flame which started spreading toward Frank and his men.

Throwing up his arms for protection, Frank backed up. "What the hell --?" he asked, as Sally abruptly grew into an ogre and roared. Some turned and tried to run away -- but steel-strong spiderwebs wrapped around their ankles.

Looking at the ogre, Big Frank shouted, "It's a trick, boys! That's one of their Halloween special effects!"

Smiling, Countess said, "You think it's a trick, Frankie boy? Show him, ogre!" She pointed at Frank.

The ogre rushed forward and picked up Frank -- who really was big -- and tossed him into the pile of struggling men. A spiderweb covered them all.

Looking down with satisfaction, and pointing to the cans of gas, Countess said over her shoulder, "Call the cops, Willy. I think we have all the evidence we need."


CONTENTS


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