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About the Author: Ricky Sprague is a writer and cartoonist whose work has appeared in MYSTERY MAGAZINE, ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE, MYSTERICAL-E, MAD, and CRACKED, and various short story book collections, including four published in 2021: MYSTERY MAGAZINE’s DIE LAUGHING hardcover collection, ASININE ASSASSINS from Smart Rhino, CRIMEUCOPIA: AS IN FUNNY HA-HA OR JUST PECULIAR from Murderous Ink, and Moonstone’s DOMINO PATRICK: DAUGHTER OF DOMINO LADY collection.

There are people who are masters of what they do, and it’s a real honor to see them in action. Like that guy who makes giant paintings of Jimi Hendrix while Jimi Hendrix music is playing. Or that guy who plays the Super Mario Bros sound effects on the violin while the game is going. Add to that list one Slip-N-Fall McCall, a grifter who worked a variety of low-level, under-the-radar kind of scams. His preferred wheeze was the slip-and-fall, whereby in which he would slip and fall in some public establishment, then threaten a lawsuit—at which point, hopefully, the ownership of the aforementioned establishment would settle such potential litigation out of court.

The spill he took in the Nic & Billy’s dining room was a beaut. Even knowing who he was and what he did, there wasn’t the slightest whiff of halibut. I had to admit that my heart stopped and I felt sympathetic pain as his feet shot out in front of him and he seemed to hang there, suspended in space, arranging his body for maximum drama with minimum pain.

When he hit the floor, it was with a magical thud.

His agony groans were subdued but affecting. He drew attention to the crack in the wood floor without being obvious. Adults cooed and crouched over him. Children cried. Slip was a capital-A Artist of the spill.

Also, he was a capital-D Dummy.

Maybe it was because he’d been out of town. Maybe it was hubris. Maybe it was laziness. Maybe he got caught up in the moment. But Slip had really “fallen down on the job,” in a very literal sense, if he thought he was going to get away with these shenanigans in this particular family-friendly, themed restaurant.

I pushed my way through the crowd that had formed around him, leaned down over him and whispered, “Get up now, dude. Call it off.”

He winced in such a way that it covered his winking at me. “Ooh, my back …”

“Do you need a doctor?” someone asked, sympathetically.

“Can you move?” someone else asked, sympathetically.

“What goes on here?” another voice asked. Not sympathetically.

This voice belonged to a guy in skinny jeans and a manbun, who I recognized as one Geoffrey Tenpin. “Tenpin” wasn’t his real last name, by the way. I don’t know his real last name. “Tenpin” was a nickname he got when he beat a dude to death with a bowling pin. That was just one of a long list of violent credits. He wasn’t one to be trifled with.

Slip-N-Fall resumed trifling with him: “Ow, ow, ow, my back is so hurt. I think I’ve slipped a disk and cracked something …”

“Well, don’t move. Me and the boys’ll help you to the back.”

“The boys” were a couple of other dudes that I also recognized as torpedoes. Now at this point you’re probably wondering why there’d be three torpedoes working at Nic & Billy’s, home of Family Nite Thursday and Funday Brunch. The answer ties into the reason why I was so anxious for Slip to just scrap this whole thing, stand up and pay the full tab and get right out of there as quickly as possible.

One of the owners of the six Nic & Billy’s Southern California franchises was Quick Vandyke.

Yeah. That Quick Vandyke.

Sensing that things were perhaps spiraling out of control, I attempted to calm the situation: “Maybe we all oughtta just take a few deep breaths and count to ten and let Mr. McCall here consider just how hurt he really is.”

Geoffrey smiled at me. “He says he’s hurt. You think he’s not?”

“I’m hurt pretty bad, Dan,” Slip said to me in a “why-you-gotta-be-such-a-killjoy?” kind of tone that was ironic, considering I was trying to save his life.

“My boss is on his way,” Geoffrey said ominously. A maintenance guy or something brought out this canvas stretcher, and the other torpedoes rolled Slip-N-Fall onto it. They weren’t very delicate with him. Almost like they didn’t believe he was actually injured, but were willing to make his “injuries” a reality if he trifled with them.

This story appears in our JUN 2022 Issue
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