Chapter 43 Danger!
Fritz Schattenborg kept Mr. Mac and the boys busy with one petty complaint after another until Mr. Mac had enough! Mr. Mac climbed down from the Solo chamber and went to the stage.
He put away his tools and said; “Mr. Schattenborg, we have been here since seven o'clock this morning and we've completed every item on your list of complaints plus several more that weren't really problems. There is no more time. Jimmy and Harry must go home to have dinner and get dressed, and so must I. Good-bye. It's been a pleasure working with you.” Mr. Mac extended his hand.
Schattenborg ignored him. “Excuse me mister fix-it, but we're not finished yet!”
Mr. Mac whirled to face him again.
“YES!” Mr. Mac exploded, then checked himself. “Yes, yes we are. Good-bye, we are leaving now.” He and the boys began packing up tools.
“You will NOT leave, do you hear me?” Schattenborg shouted at them as they turned to leave. They ignored him and kept walking.
“You'll never work for Wurlitzer OR this theatre chain again, do you hear? I'll see to it!” Schattenborg was furious.
“When they got to the car Mr. Mac began to see how humorous the confrontation had been. He began to chuckle, then laughed out loud. Jimmy and Harry began to think the whole thing was funny, too and they all laughed for several blocks.
Harry finally said, “I hope you don't get any grief over this, Mr. Mac!”
“Yeah,” Jimmy was wiping his eyes. “You don't think he can cause real trouble for you, do you?”
“Who? That pip-squeak?” answered Mr. Mac. “Don't count on it! He doesn't work for Wurlitzer or the theatre chain. It'll be all right, I'm sure! We've got to hurry. I wish I had telephoned to let Melody know that I'm going to be late for dinner. My folks are staying with her folks and I'm all ready late.” They pulled up in front of Jimmy's house.
“I'll see you fellows at the premier! Jimmy, would you telephone Mr. and Mrs. Page and let them know I've gone home to clean up and get into my fancy new duds?”
Jimmy stuck his head back through the window of the truck. “Sure! I guess you're gonna put on the Ritz, too, eh? Harry and I got new formal suits to wear to the premier, too!”
Harry and Jimmy waved as Mr. Mac's Ford pulled away. Slapping each other on the back and assuring one another that they would meet each other at the theatre Harry went next door as Jimmy loped up the steps to his own front door. Jimmy wasted no time in calling the Pages.
A female voice answered with a hello.
“Hello, Miss Mel?”
“Is this Jimmy Day? Darling, this is Melody's mother.”
“Good morning, Mrs. Page! Is Miss Mel there?”
“No, dear she isn't, and do you happen to know where Keith is?”
“Yes, ma'am. That's why I'm calling. Mr. Mac asked me to let Miss Mel know that he is running late, and that he will be there for dinner shortly. He's gone home to wash and change.”
“Oh, dear!” Mrs. Page sounded distressed “For some reason, Melody was quite worried that she hadn't heard from him. She called your mother and found out that you-all were still at the theatre. She said something about that Fritz Schatter-something person being capable of doing almost anything. She was most upset. She grabbed her purse and ran out of the house saying she was going down to the theatre. Do you know what she meant?”
“I'm not sure. Mrs. Page, I don't want to alarm you, but maybe you should have Mr. Mac go back to the theatre to find her if he gets to your house before Miss Mel gets back!” Jimmy felt worried, though he couldn't decide why.
“Oh, dear! I think that would be wise. In fact, I'll send her father to find her right away. Thank you m'dear! Bye, bye!”
Jimmy put the phone down just as his mother entered the room.
She saw a worried expression on Jimmy's face. “Jimmy! What's wrong, baby?”
“Mom, I'm not sure, but I have a sick feeling that Miss Mel could be in real danger.” Jimmy told her about how Schattenborg had been so crude and forward with Melody returning from the Union Terminal that day, and about what had happened last evening in the theatre dressing room. Then he told her of his telephone conversation with Mrs. Page.
Trusting her son's instinct she said, “You must hurry! Your clothes are laid out for you in your room. Get ready as quickly as you can. I'll tell your father. He's ready to go now, he'll take you to the theatre. I'll ride with the Killmans. Go, go, go!” She bustled him upstairs as she continued to speak.
“I did not like the look of that Schattenborg man,” she called up the stairs after Jimmy, “I too, think he very well could be dangerous.” She picked up the phone and called the Killman household.
Jimmy never got dressed so fast in his life. He was bounding down the stairs when Harry met him in the foyer. Without saying a word they ran out the front door and got into Mr. Day's car straightway.
When Keith MacLeod arrived at the Page home, Mrs. Page and his mother met him at the curb.
Mrs. Page said. “Melody has gone to the theatre to find you. That Fritz man is there. Keith, Jimmy thinks he may be dangerous. I'm afraid for her! Hurry! Mr. Page and your father are on their way to meet you there!”
He didn't say a word. He put the car in gear and sped to the theatre.
Melody Page was worried about Keith. She knew what a despicable character Schattenborg was. She ran into the stage door of the theatre. The picture sheet was down and the wings were dark. The whole theatre appeared to be empty. Then she remembered; Oh! The meeting! Mr. Randolph had announced at the end of the open house that there would be a meeting of all the service employees in the conference room up on the sixth floor; that's where everyone was. That's probably where Schattenborg was, too. I must have missed Keith, she thought, he's surely gone home to dress and went on to the house for dinner.
She heaved a sigh and relaxed. She looked at the luminous dial on her watch. They were having dinner early, at eleven-thirty, so they could get to the premier by one o'clock. It was now eleven forty-five. She had to go home to get dressed! She started for the stage door. As she passed a curtain in the wings she was seized from behind, a hand over her face, another pinning her arms to her side. She tried to scream, but she couldn't breathe, much less make a sound.
A wickedly dangerous and all too familiar voice said: “So you slam the door in my face and think you can get away with it? If you move, if you make a sound I'll wring your neck like a chicken's.”
He uncovered her nose, allowing her to breathe. “You think you're so lofty and pure. You need a better man than that organ fixer to show you what life is all about.”
Fritz Schattenborg manhandled her down the stairs that led below the stage. The small naked bulb of the service lamp made grotesque shadows of the bank upon bank of electric stage light switches. He dragged her through the door at the bottom of the landing and slammed it.
As soon as he took his hand off her mouth she began to scream: “Keith! Keith!” He then stunned her by slugging her savagely across the face. He took his neck tie off and tied her wrists with it, then he stuffed his handkerchief in her mouth.
“You pitiable little idiot!” He laughed nastily. “Don't you think I've already taken care of your pretty-boy organ man. He won't be able to help you, ever!”
When he said this, Melody was not longer frightened for herself. Rather, she flashed into a white-hot fury. He had taken his hands off of her thinking that she would cower under his influence.
Summoning her strength she pulled back her right foot and kicked him right in the groin. He howled in pain and rage. Even as he as he doubled over, he lunged at her. She recklessly ran and he missed her. She stopped, looking around. The door to the organ pit tunnel was a mere fifteen feet away. She quickly reached the door and shoved it open.
Whirling into the tunnel and slamming the door, she found herself completely in the dark. She jerked the handkerchief out of her mouth as she pressed her back against the door bracing it with her legs. Schattenborg began to repeatedly throw his weight against the door. I can't keep this up, she thought. His blows were becoming less frequent, but each more effective than the last.
She couldn't remember if the organ console was in the up or down position. She knew that if it was in the up position the door at the other end of the short tunnel would be locked and she would be trapped. If the console was down she could shut the door behind her and, if she could find it in time, press the up button on the console, automatically locking the demented Schattenborg out. She made up her mind to try for the door after the next blow.