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Planet Stories

Fall Issue, June-Aug., 1945

Beer-Trust Busters

By A. R. STUART

"It's a hell of a note when one gay controls the beer situation— let's do Dudley dirty!" rang the war cry of Doc, Listless and Outhouse. And the intrepid trio went blearily about the business of dirtying Dudley—empty bottles marking their trail.

WE PULLED into the spaceport with the asteroid in tow. Platinum-20%. Very nice. We cleared our papers and sold the deposit for a tidy sum. There was only one thing to do and we did it.

"Three beers," said Outhouse. Six feet four he was and built like one. The bartender brought them over. None of those mechanical mixers for us like they have in the high class joints. We like human company. Maybe that's why I'm always fighting with Outhouse Murphy and Listless Lomack.

"Nice spotting on that asteroid, Doc," said Listless, downing his beer in a gulp and ordering three more, all for himself. "It's nice to have an astrophysicist in the crew. Sometimes you actually have a purpose."

"More than a third class navigator," I yipped. But I was feeling pretty good. We all were. Money in our pockets, a good ship to roam around in and the best of company. We sat around over more beer, discussing plans for a real bender of which this was only the beginning, as you might say. When we finally picked out what we wanted to do, we called for the bill.

Murphy picked it up and set it down.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Look," he commanded.

I added up the column and checked the total. Then I thought back over the number of drinks we'd had. Listless pulled out a pocket slipstick but I didn't need it.

"The price," I said in a hushed whisper, "has doubled."

Listless turned to the bartender.

"What's the idea?" he asked. The guy shrugged.

"That's the latest," he said. "I can't help it. I gotta pay more, I gotta charge more."

"Who's your supplier?" asked Outhouse.

"Drake," said the bartender.

Murphy turned to us.

"I got suspicions," he informed us. "I got to go chase 'em up. I'll be back in a little while."

Listless and I debated whether to order more. It was almost cheaper to drink hard liquor but we decided that discretion was the better part of hangover and stuck to beer.

We hung around for about an hour and finally the door was shadowed by Murphy's tremendous form. If an elephant can slide, Murphy slid onto a stool. He ordered a couple and turned to us.

"Well, boys, what do you think of the doings of Dirty Dudley?"

Listless and I looked at each other.

"Dudley D. Drake, young tycoon; embezzled from his father, sold short on his brother and now controls the beer situation."

"Oh," we said among other unprintables, "that is a fine, tender, sore spot witk us, Outhouse. How come?"

"I'm not sure but from what I heard down at the alumni house it has something to do with the malting process. I think he's got a law passed or something like that. He had enough influence and he's nasty enough. In college we used to call him the 'Doctor of the Doublecross.'"

"You mean you know the punk?" I asked.

"Yeah. He tried to get my place on the wrestling team once. He dropped a table on me from the second floor." A dreamy smile played over the lips of an amused Outhouse.

"What happened?" asked Lomack.

"Oh, I caught it and threw it back up at him. Very messy. But he stayed away from me after that. I haven't seen him in six or seven years. And now he starts treading on my toes again. To say nothing of you two souses. I think it's time to renew an old acquaintance. Let's go."

WE FOLLOWED him out into the street and caught a 'copter to the Drake building. A beautiful job in steelite and stone, like the Drake heart, I gathered. The stone was only for effect, the steelite held it up. We settled down on the roof, got out and paid the driver. We walked up to the reception clerk. Murphy took it from there.

"Mr. Drake is too busy to receive visitors," said the clerk at the desk. "I'm sorry."

He really was, too, when Murphy leaned over and put one big hand completely around his neck.

"Look," said Murphy, "you just call him on the viewer and tell him that Outhouse is here to finish a job on a table. He'll see us."

The clerk tried to gulp but Murphy's fingers were in the way of his epiglottis. So he nodded his head. He was released with caution but there wasn't any need for that now. The clerk picked up the dial and called Drake. Dudley's face appeared on the screen. Dark and handsome he was like a long snake, with a little trick mustache that looked like an old time toothbrush.

"What is it?" he snapped. "You know I'm busy."

"There's something about a table, sir, and an outhouse"—the receptionist started, but Drake caught sight of Murphy's features shoved in front of the screen.

"Hello, Dudley," cooed Murphy. "Think you'll be able to see me? I wouldn't refuse if I were you." Murphy picked up that poor operator and gestured with him. "Remember the table, Dudley? You wouldn't want me to do that to this poor fellow, would you? And besides, I've got a couple of geniuses with me. We want to talk to you about beer."

Drake sat back in his chair and grinned a nasty grin.

"It's all right, Harkness," he directed. "Send them down."

The clerk lay limply back in the chair and pointed voicelessly toward a private elevator. Murphy pointed a finger at him.

"Remember, please, that I am a proper noun. When you say Outhouse, don't put 'an' in front of it." We bowed courteously and stalked off.

The elevator was waiting for us. We got in, and it slipped soundlessly down to Drake's office. He was sitting waiting for us, his elbows on the desk, hands clasped together. He didn't bother to get up when we came...

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