This story is reprinted courtesy of Project Gutenberg. View the source text.
Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy, August, 1954
Helen LaTour had the best hip wriggle in galactic Burleyque. In fact, it was so good she hipped herself smack into another dimension!…
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The Queen of Space
By Joseph Slotkin
I was relaxin’ with my second Plutonian Stinger in the dignified atmosphere of Charley’s Venusian Retreat when there was this strange noise outside the dive, like a flock of hot jets hittin’ the atmosphere. Right after a character comes bustin’ through the door.
He looks behind him, scared-like, wipin’ his forehead with a handkerchief as big as one of Charley’s tablecloths, only cleaner. He stops near my table.
“I beg your pardon, would you mind if I joined you?”
“Listen, buster, if you got a ulterior motif, such as a touch, you kin hop a jet, and—” I starts. Then I get a really good look, and hear myself sayin’, “Hey, you don’t look so good. Maybe you better sit down.”
“Thank you, oh thank you very much,” he says, floppin’ onto one of Charley’s flexible plastic stools.
“Well, I guess I kin maybe be a sucker and go fer just one,” I says, while he is still mutterin’ somethin’ to hisself. “Waiter! Hey, mug!” I turns back to the little fella, feelin’ real expansive, like they say.
“What’ll be your pleasure, buster?”
“Oh, but please allow me.”
Well, this is a new angle—a panhandler puttin’ hisself on the pan. But far be it from me to refuse a barroom curtsy, so I orders another Jupiter sling.
“I’ll have two of those drinks on your tray,” the little guy pipes up to the waiter. And the mug, who is also one of Charley’s best bouncers, almost drops his load.
“Hey, mister, these here’s Plutonian stingers,” the waiter yells.
“Y’know what’s in them things, fella?” I chimes in. “They get ground vesicantus herbs from Pluto, and—”
“Oh, what difference does it make?” The little guy looked mournful. “He’ll get me sooner or later, and then—”
“He?” Maybe I had this little guy all wrong. Maybe he was a nut that had decided to bolt.
“Yes. Perhaps you heard that heat ray gun being discharged, just as I came in.”
“Oh. So that’s what them noises was.”
“Yes. Wherever I go, he shoots at me. Waits for me to leave the building, and then shoots at me.”
“Well, mister, again it’s none a my business, but—if you’re carryin’ any asteroids around—they kin be cashed anywhere. Lots of guys would take pot shots at ya.”
“Oh, Luigi isn’t interested in my—money.”
“Luigi?” That name sent shudders goin’ around my curvature.
“Precisely.” He gives with a long sigh. “I’ve been dodging him for some time now.”
“Mister,” I says, “everybody knows what a dangerous guy Luigi is. Why, they got his mug on the wanted wall in every space station from here to the outer galaxies.”
“Yes, I presume they have.”
“I figure one of these days the cops is gonna pin enough on him to make him look like a astronavigator’s space map,” I adds.
“Oh, I doubt if the space control will ever have the opportunity to apprehend him here on Venus. This is still a wild, mostly unsettled planet, you know. And besides, Luigi is too smart,” says this little guy, like he knows Luigi personal.
“Yeh, he sure is. Uh—what’s he got on you?”
The little guy reaches over like he doesn’t know he’s takin’ the Plutonian stinger right from under me nose, and says sort of thoughtful-like, “He thinks I stole his girl.”
“Yeh. Yeh, sure, that would make any fella ma—” I starts, then it seeps through, and I looks at this little, skinny, runty guy, only I can’t laugh.
“Oh, I didn’t of course. But the fact that she was last seen entering my apartment, and that she never left it, at least not visibly—well, that makes it terribly difficult to convince him—”
“Now wait a minute—”
“Oh, I don’t expect anyone to believe me, anymore. Sometimes I find it hard to believe myself.”
“D-do you know who Luigi’s gal is?” I finally stutters.
“Was,” he corrects, mournful-like. This sort of scared me. Either this guy was the kind of crank they never use to wind up a cold jet, or women had changed a lot since the last time I enriched my culture by attending a performance of Flossie’s Follies at the Little Venus Circuit Burly-que.
“Mister, I ain’t lookin’ fer no trouble,” I mutters, edgin’ back on my stool.
“Oh, but I assure you, I’m telling the truth.”
“Helen LaTour, the terrific blonde,” I says, meaningful-like.
“The queen of the burly circuit,” I goes on, without realizin’ that I am stretched halfway across the table, shoutin’ into his ear because of a slight argument going on down the bar. “The most luscious hunk of stuff that ever shook a notion to go on the stage,” I enlarges. “Right out of this world,” I finishes up. “Right?”
“Precisely. Right out of this world.”
“In your apartment?”
“In my apartment.”
Now, I figures that maybe he was one of these here not-so-juvenile delinquents what believes that if they can’t have it, they can at least kill it, so I starts edgin’ away, but then I gets a sudden thought.
“You sure the cops ain’t on your trail, bud?”
“No, but if Luigi doesn’t get me, it’s only a matter of time until they will be. After all, anyone such as her, disappearing—”
“I thought she was out of town.”
“No. Just out of this world.”
Them words take on a sinister-like significance, the way he says them. Then he gets up, sober-lookin’ in spite of them Plutonian stingers that would of disintegrated even a Martian.
“If you wouldn’t mind running the risk, I’d appreciate your company. I’m going back to my place now. The—ah—refreshments here lack the needed stimulation. I have a much better supply home.”
Now, maybe it was that stinger and the Uranus delight, because under ordinary circumstances I would turn down such a invite from a guy who is no doubt a no-orbit meteorite. But then I realize—he’s invitin’ me to his apartment where, accordin’ to his story, the luscious LaTour, queen of the strip world, has not been seen since. So I gives in.
When we reaches his apartment, he snaps on the lights, like he was nervous somebody might be hidin’ inside, and locks the door tight. I watch close. He leaves the key in the lock, which makes me feel some easier.
He has quite a nice little joint. Not gaudy, but nice. He goes to one bookshelf, presses a button, and a shelf slides back. Inside, he’s got enough wiggle-water to fill all the Martian canals and irrigate the Moon.
Well, we’re heisting a couple, and then he starts talkin’ like we was never interrupted.
“Please forgive me for not introducing myself sooner, but under the circumstances—My name is Timothy J. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., M.A. and A.B.”
“Oh. Well, me monicker is Benjamin Spelvin, but you kin call me Benny.”
“Very well—uh—Benny. I am, you see, a psychiatrist.”
“Oh, yeh. But you’d never be able to figure me out, Doc. I got so many bumps on my head from hittin’ th’ anti-gravitational screens on the jets during free fall—”
He laughs. “No, that would be a phrenologist you’re thinking of, Benny. I’m concerned mainly with psychological abnormalities and mal-adjustments of the psyche. I’m also known as something of an expert in the more physical science of phenomenology,” he adds modest-like.
Now all this adds up to minus zero to me, but I’m sittin’ in a comfortable apartment in the better section of Venus, I got me a glass of Uranus Number Eight, Vintage 2480, so I lets the little fellow ramble on. Finally I says, “Uh, Mister—uh, Doc, you was sayin’ somethin’ about Helen LaTour, the strip—”
“Oh, oh yes, I was coming to that. Well, now—uh, where was I? Oh, yes … Benny, these were the events that brought me, a modest scientist, into contact with this Luigi and that—uh—delectable creature, Miss Helen LaTour. And I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself that I am telling the truth.”
Not so long ago (the Professor starts out) I was visited here by a rather attractive young woman who told me her name was Helen LaTour.
It is true, she had called me first on the telescreen, and at the sight of that lovely—um—face, obviously mirroring distress, I assumed that, having heard of my reputation she had sought me out for—um—treatment.
Still, it was rather—um—disturbing to me to be interrupted by this beautiful young woman while I was in the midst of my studies.
“I’m grateful to you fer seein’ me, P’fessor, honest I am,” she began, seating herself immediately, and crossing her—um—quite shapely legs … er, limbs, that is.
“Well, Miss—uh—LaTour, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah. Helen LaTour. You heard of me ‘way up here on Venusian Heights?”
“The—ah—name has a familiar ring. But I must remind you, I have restricted my practice to native Venusians.”
“Yeah, sure, Doc. Still, I figured you, bein’ an Earth man, and me a Earth woman, well—patriotism….”
Her eyes were indeed lovely, gazing at me so appealingly, and I must confess she aroused my—um—sense of Earthy—that is, Earthy—um—patriotism.
“Uh—just what can I do for you, Miss LaTour?”
“I dunno yet, doc. I’m happy in my work. I got a swell boy friend, name of Luigi, maybe you heard of him? No? Well, I got no reason to be unhappy, and yet—”
“Just a moment, please. What is your work?”
“Doc, I been known in the strip tease game as the Queen of the Solid Shake.”
“You are—er—a night club dancer?”
“Night clubs? Nah, I never leave the boards, Doc. I got my own circuit, my agent takes good care of my bookings, and my wardrobe is the envy of ingenues from Mercury to Pluto.”
“Yeah. Plenty of action, Doc.”
“Just what type of—er—roles do you play?”
“I’m a tease artist, Doc. I take it off. Strip.”
Every word this remarkable young lady uttered was punctuated by the most fluid and expressive movements of her—um—agile—um—body, but I must confess I was becoming more and more—er—confused.
“Want a demonstration?”
By now, I had begun to gather what she meant, and hastily asserted that such a procedure would be unnecessary.
“Well, Doc, I’m solid sender, see? Hep with the jet…. Right out of this world.”
“That’s just the trouble. I been right out of this world.”
“You have dreams?”
“I dunno. Lemme explain. I’m opening next week after a layoff on Earth, see? Them Earthmen are gettin’ sorta tame, but we figure these Venusians will appreciate what I got to offer when they come in after a long, muggy day at them cold uranium mines, see?”
I commented that I had made some notations about the working conditions of the native Venusians comparing them, especially atmospherically, to the phenomenon of what is known on Earth as ACM—ancient, California smog.
“Yeah, sure, sure, Doc. Well, they got the whole show at the Little Venus Theater built around my number. I got my whole new wardrobe, with the special anti-gravity zippers, some classy plastic bubbles, and a special arrangement cooked up by Ziggy, the trumpeter from Mercury. They’re billing me tops, and I figured out a routine that’s a sure sensation. I been practicing it all during my vacation.
“I even been holding off Luigi so I could practice,” Miss LaTour said.
“Luigi—that’s your boy friend’s name?”
“Yeah,” she laughed, and added, “I been practicin’ by myself so much he thinks I been cheatin’ on him.” She winked her lovely eye at me.
“Well, you should see this number,” she said. “It begins with me wigglin’ like this.”
She began to swing about the room. I had to confess to myself that, standing there, her dark eyes flashing, her long, rather—uh—shapely legs, and—um—well, it was obvious that if anyone were better qualified to interpret love, I had never seen it. But as I observed her closely, she seemed truly agitated.
“Why, I even learned a couple of new languages, so I could sing a part of my song in each language—one from each planet.”
“Er—I believe we can dispense with that.”
“But that’s just it, Doc. I gotta tell you about it. It’s all sort of symbolic, see? A sort of United Planets number. The idea is that all of the planets are held together by love, real, solid love, the kind that grips you.”
It was most apparent to me at that juncture that her—um—talents were of the—um—gripping variety.
I begged her, however, to come to the source of her difficulty.
“Well, the number’s comin’ along terrific. I got it down perfect, every movement, every swing and every sway. I feel I reached a new peak in my art, when—just a couple of days ago—it happens.”
I begged her to be explicit.
“Well, I’m doing the routine in my dressing-room, see? First the singing as a tease, see? Then the bubbles, then I start playin’ with the anti-gravity zippers, see? Well, I get my skirt off, and then my blouse, and I’ve got panties and a brassiere, of course, using the skirt as a kind of screen, see? Well, there I am—”
“In my panties and bra, of course.”
“Usin’ the skirt as a sort of a fan, see? Then I get to the part where I suddenly lift the skirt over my head, and I give a sort of wiggle—well, it ain’t a wiggle, exactly, with my hips, and then—”
“Yes, yes, and then, Miss LaTour?”
“That’s it, Doc,” she said unhappily. “That’s when it happened. One minute I was standin’ there in my room, practicin’, and then—the room wasn’t there anymore.”
I watched her closely—observing her reactions, of course.
“Where do you suppose the room went?”
“I dunno. It just wasn’t there.”
“And—uh—where were you?”
“That’s the funniest part of it. I didn’t seem to be in a room at all. I seemed to be in a large, open space and, Doc, there was sand under my feet!”
Her particular hallucination began to take coherent—um—shape in my mind, now.
“You say there was sand under your feet—and you were out-of-doors?”
“Like in some sort of desert, Doc. And Doc—there was someone coming toward me!”
“I see. A—man, doubtless.”
“Yeah, yeah! And when he saw me standing there, he came rushing at me. Well, I remembered I didn’t have much on, so I lowered my skirt.”
“I see. And this man. He—chased you?”
“Well—no. When I lowered my skirt, he stopped.”
“Yeah. Well, I figures here’s a man, and I got my new routine, let’s try it out. So I raised my skirt again, watching his face, and went on from there.”
“On. From there. I see.”
“And Doc,” she became intensely excited, and I must confess I found it fairly difficult to preserve my own calm, “when I went through that hip-sway, his face became dim, and then sort of cloudy, and then, in a flash, there I was back in my room again just as if it never had happened.”
I said, “Miss LaTour, tell me, when you were a child, were you always imagining that men would turn around to look at you: that is, that they were always looking at you?”
“They were,” she stated flatly. “Hey—you think I’m imagining I was somewhere else? Well, you’re wrong, Doc. I was on a desert, I tell you—and what’s more, when I got back in my room, there was sand on the bottom of my slippers!”
“Of course,” I soothed her. “I’m not arguing with you at all.”
“Look—” She became vehement. “I’ll do my routine right here, in front of you, and you’ll see—”
I pleaded with her that this was entirely unnecessary, but she began to walk enticingly about the room, humming some tune.
I was shocked at first, but in spite of myself, the eternal attraction of the feminine form asserted itself, and I watched the rest of the proceedings with, I must admit, keen interest. Miss LaTour was indeed a—um—skillful young woman, and generously equipped to prove her points.
“You see now?” She was standing before me, holding her skirt over her head, scantily clothed otherwise. “Just about now, I go into my new hip-sway, like this, and—”
And then she was gone.
She had begun an enticing—indeed, fascinating wiggle of as excellently rounded a pair of hips as I had ever seen, and then, without warning of any sort, she had vanished.
Well, you can imagine how perturbed I was. I searched the entire apartment thoroughly. For a moment I was inclined to believe it was merely an hallucination of my own. But there was the evidence of the clothing she had already—um—shed, lying on the floor, to prove my own sanity.
Then I thought of the drinking cabinet I—ah—keep here for my patients, and I turned to it with shaking hands. As I was pouring myself a Uranian Delight, I heard her voice suddenly, and the glass crashed from my hands.
“I’m back, Doc.”
Indeed, there she was, standing as she had before, her skirt raised about her head with one hand, and in the other what looked like some sort of human hand!
“Guess where I was this time.”
I confess I was shaking violently, but she laughed, and approached me coquettishly, showing me what appeared on closer examination to be an artifact of some sort, rather like a metal glove. As I peered at it she sighed deeply.
“What a knight!”
“Extraordinary, but I fancied I heard you say, ‘What a night’!”
“That’s what I said, Doc.”
“But you’ve only been gone about five minutes. How can you say—?”
“Search me. All I know is, I just spent the last three hours with a knight.”
“A night, in a few hours! How—?”
“I said ‘knight’. The kind that rides a horse—you know.”
I stared at her, but she was coyly putting on her clothes, a half-smile on her lovely face.
“He was so sweet, Doc. Talked a kind of funny French, but I could understand enough to intuition the rest—Anyhow, after awhile I remembered you’d be worried about me, so I sneaked out of his castle, and went through my routine up to the point where I wiggle my hips—and here I am.”
“But—where were you?”
“Search me. He said his name was Launcelot.”
“Launcelot. That’s what he said his name was. That’s a pretty name.” She giggled, “I wonder what Luigi would say.”
I was shocked, but then the full significance of this young lady’s strange powers flooded over me. I regarded her seriously.
“Miss LaTour, do you realize what you’ve accomplished by a mere wiggle of your hips?”
She paused in fastening the garter to her filmy stocking. “I built up quite a reputation. I know that.”
I fired her with my glance. “At first I thought perhaps you were suffering from—well, no matter. Now, either we’re both mad, or you’ve penetrated the fourth dimension and bridged space and time.”
She appeared highly uninterested. “That’s fine, Doc. Uh—my seams straight? Thanks. Now if you kin figure out some way to get that—what did you call it? Oh, yeah, penetration—out of my act, everything’ll be O.K. After all, I got my cash customers to consider.”
“Oh, your act is unimportant now,” I said excitedly. “Consider what this means to science! With that little—ah—wiggle of your hips you’ve found a warp in space that’s projected you into another time sphere, proportionately co-existent with our own!”
“That’s great, Doc. Now that you know how I do it, how about helping me to get rid of it? Although—” She hesitated. “I would like to see Launce again. I wonder if he’s married?”
“Perhaps,” I mused, “this phenomenon manifested itself here on Venus and not when you were on Earth because of the peculiar orbit of the Venusian—” And then I realized she was waiting for me to answer her.
“Launcelot? I—uh—think he’s been carrying on an affair with a lady named—um—Guinevere.”
“A two-timer, huh?”
I avoided this trend in the conversation. “Miss LaTour, apparently it depends where you do your—um—contortions. Apparently in your dressing-room you emerged onto a desert. While in my apartment, it brought you straight into an ancient age—”
“Hot asteroids, so that’s it!” Her lovely face was suffused with an unmistakable eagerness. “Look, Doc, supposin’ I come up here again some time, so I can see him again?”
I was properly outraged. “Hardly! Come to my apartment so that you can carry on an affair with a man dead for thousands of years? Certainly not!”
She was puzzled. “He didn’t seem dead to me.”
“Miss LaTour!” I was desperate. “Do you realize what this would mean to science?” I tried to explain to her, “For centuries, man has tried to find the answer to the secrets of the action of mass subject to certain movements at certain speeds, knowing that mass and energy were identical—”
“I coulda given them the answer any time they wanted to catch me at the Little Venus Burly-que,” she retorted fliply. “I use plenty of energy, but, brother, I never waste a movement.”
“Please, young lady, this flippant attitude toward science—”
“What do I care about science? All I want is my routine. Now, can you hep me to what’s putting the crimp in my act, so’s I can iron out that there fourth-dimensional wiggle?”
“I’d have to study this peculiar phenomenon much more closely—”
“Nothin’ doin’! You seen all you’re going to!”
“But you don’t understand,” I pleaded.
“Lissen! I built myself up from a walk-on in the chorus. Worked hard, see? Figured out my own bumps and grinds and hip-rolls, just so’s I could make myself the biggest tease name in the galaxy. And now, what goes? I got what you call a fourth-dimensional wiggle that gets me out through somebody’s space warp into somebody’s back yard who lived before I was born! This here thing’s warpin’ my personality. I’m fed up,” she cried.
I was frantic. “But you’ve a debt to society—”
“Lissen. I pay my debt every time I walk out on that stage. Think of all the men I make forget they’re married, or their office, or factory or farm troubles—or their income taxes! How would they feel, if I disappeared in the middle of my strip? They want to see more of me, not less!
“I thought maybe you could help me lick this thing—whatever you call it. But under that beard you’re just like all them other guys. I’m fed up on double talk. Let’s just forget the whole thing, Doc. Good-by, professor!”
And with that, she flounced out of my apartment.
Well, the little guy stopped talkin’, then, and takes another drink and I find I been sittin’ on the edge of my chair, like I was stymied by a paralaray.
“B-but—you said that she disappeared from here,” I says like a guy in a trance.
“Oh yes indeed,” he smiles at me. “I was too wrapped up in her by then to let her off so easily.”
“Y’mean—you followed her up?”
“I felt sure that if I could just see her again, and explain the value of her peculiar, indeed amazing talent, to science—well, at any rate I knew where to go. I had never in all my life frequented one of those burlesque houses.
“After the performance I endeavored to see her backstage. That was when I had my first brush with Mr. Luigi.”
“Tough character, ain’t he?”
“Extremely so. He warned me not to bother her, and when I tried to explain, he threatened me.
“And then one evening,” the little guy says, settling back in his chair with a hooker of Saturnian Sling, and that far-away look in his eyes again, “just when I least expected it, my robot butler announced her.
“‘Oh, I’m so glad you’ve changed your mind, Miss LaTour,’ I greeted her. ‘And now if you’re ready, we can continue our experiments without further delay.’
“‘Nix, doc, I ain’t here for any more experiments,’ were her first words.
“I was non-plussed. ‘You’re not? Then why did you—?’
“‘Oh, I dunno. I been practisin’ that space-warpin’ hip-wiggle in private, see? And I been meetin’ all sorts of characters. But not the one I got a real interest in.’
“I sensed trouble. ‘Miss LaTour, if you’ve come here for—’
“‘I’m getting bored, Doc. Luigi’s gettin’ too jealous. Why he even thinks that you—’ She leered at me archly. ‘Well, never mind. But them few hours I spent with that there Launcelot—’
“She began to hum a few bars of the song she used in her—um—routine, despite my pleas.
“‘Miss LaTour, please don’t begin that again!’
“‘What’re ya kickin’ about, professor? You’re gettin’ a free show, ain’tcha? At least up to a point y’are—’
“‘Please, Miss LaTour, put on that blouse. I must warn you—’
“Her lovely bare arms stopped their gyrations. ‘Huh? Warn me? About what?’
“‘That time and space are really fluid, as that ancient philosopher, Einstein, suspected back in the Twentieth Century. You may not reach the same time-space continuum again. Why, you may even—um—wiggle yourself into the middle of a Pharaoh’s tomb—or perhaps the bottom of the ocean which now covers what used to be ancient Russia!’
“‘I’ll take my chances, Doc. Hmmm…. Hmmm…. Pretty good, huh?’
“‘I implore you, Miss LaTour!’
“Despite my desperate efforts, she began to remove another of her—um—garments.
“‘Da de da, my bra. Da de daa doo, my shoe. And now, Launcelot, honey, here I—’
“She had come to the hip-wiggle that curiously projected her through some warp in space. There was a sound as though a rubber tube were being sucked inside out—and she vanished.”
The little fella emptied his glass and filled it again.
“I waited for what seemed an eternity. But she never reappeared, to this very day.”
I takes another slug of that Martian wiggle-water myself, then I squints at the professor over my glass.
“I guess maybe you been hittin’ the bottle yourself lately, huh Doc?”
“What? Oh, you don’t believe me, do you, Benny?”
“Well, it ain’t that exactly, but ya gotta admit—”
He gets excited again. “Here, I’ll show you.” He goes to a drawer, takes somethin’ soft and shiny out, and comes back, wavin’ them under my nose. My nose doesn’t object.
“I have proof. Take a look at these.”
They was Helen LaTour’s size, all right. I gotta admit that, okay. And they was pretty. Especially when I starts thinkin’ of what filled ’em.
“She left them behind when she went through that space warp. It’s all there is left of her.”
“Hmmm. Say, doc, y’sure these ain’t some other dame’s? Maybe yer wife’s—?”
“I assure you, I have never been married.” He looks wistful-like. “Since meeting Miss LaTour, I grant you I have toyed with the speculation of what marital bliss might have been like with someone of the caliber of—”
Just then, the window behind me pops open with a crash that breaks it into a zillion pieces, and into the room steps Luigi.
I couldn’t of been more scared if I’d started seeing snakes, which I had, since Luigi looks like the meanest kind of viper in the zoo.
“Okay, pop,” he snarls, deadly-like. “Where ya keepin’ her?”
The little guy doesn’t even turn a hair, whiles I’m startin’ to get rid of all the stuff I been drinkin’, reflex-like, so’s I’ll be lighter fer the takeoff when I kin get my feet unfroze.
“How did you get here?” the prof inquires, cool like a cucumber.
“I climbed in through that there space warp you been warblin’ about,” Luigi sneers, and I can see he is in a definitely unsociable mood.
“You!” he hollers, looking at where I was before he hollered, and when I come down off the top of the bookcase he says, “What do you know about it?”
“Luigi,” I peeps, “I ain’t never seen this guy until tonight.”
“He’s telling the truth, Luigi,” the little guy says, and I coulda kissed him fer it.
“Okay, pop. So now that you’re talkin’, start singin’. And it better be on the level, too. What did you do with my gal? C’mon, spill it, or you’ll be spillin’ more than words.”
“I told you the truth the first time,” the little guy says, with terrific dignity fer a future corpse.
I thought Luigi would bust a jet-gasket, but all of a sudden he calms down, and gets an expression on his puss like a tiger tryin’ to smile.
“Look pop,” he says, “I know how it is.” And he’s almost beggin’ now. “I know LaTour. She’s gotta have a change once’t in a while. But I love that dame, see? And I gotta have her back. So if you’ll just tell me where she is, I’m willin’ to forget all about everythin’ else—”
The little guy just looks at him sort of pitying-like. “I assure you I’d like to help you, Luigi, but—”
He stops, with his mouth open, his eyes poppin’ out of his head. He’s starin’ at somethin’ behind me and Luigi’s.
I hears a low, silvery laugh, kinda like little bells tinklin’, and the kinda voice you figure that there pie-eyed piper musta had on his flute, is sayin’:
“Well! Hello, suckers!”
When Luigi hears that laugh, he whirls around like a weathercock on top of a landship station, his face all red and puffed up.
“Baby!” He gets that far, then his eyes start to pop out. Mine are already rollin’ on the rug.
Standin’ there, laughin’ like she is havin’ the time of her luscious life, is the Queen of Burly-que, Helen LaTour herself, in, what I mean, the flesh.
She is holdin’ some white sort of a robe or somethin’ over her head, and aside from that, she ain’t got a stitch on that knockout of a body of hers.
Luigi gets his wind back, and starts gettin’ tough again. “So you been two-timin’ me fer this old goat here, huh?”
“I assure you, this is as much of a shock to me—”
But the LaTour ain’t payin’ them no attention. She pulls the robe half over her, and gives with that tinklin’ laugh again.
“I didn’t expect to come back here,” she chuckles. “I made a mistake.”
“Where you been?” Luigi moves towards her, like he was gonna hit her.
“Don’t you take another step, you lug!”
She sure knew how to handle men. Luigi stops like he’s been slugged by a Uranian, and his face gets all purple and pleading.
“Aw come on, babe, gimme a break. Ain’t you been hangin’ out with this little jerk long enough?”
“Th-that garment—” The little guy is starin’ at the robe LaTour is holdin’ over the better parts of her. “That white robe—where did you get it?” he sorta wheezed.
“This? Oh, this old thing. It’s just part of my old wardrobe. The guy I married gave it to me.”
“You—what?” Luigi’s puss turns from purple to pale white. “You ain’t married?”
“Oh, no?” LaTour looks at him like he’s a Venusian rainworm, and the lug goes inta another Technicolor trance.
“But I’m gettin’ fed up already,” she yawns. “I met a fella’s got a lot more S.A. than the guy I’m hitched to now. Yeah,” she giggles, “My new fella knows how to appreciate a gal. Why, he even judged a beauty contest once.”
“You take that jet line to Atlantic City, baby?” Luigi says.
The LaTour laughs, and catches the little guy’s eye. “Professor, tell this jerk here what I’m talkin’ about.”
The little guy nods. “So that’s why you didn’t come back,” he says.
“Yeah. I been promised to my new fella, and I ain’t one to break a promise.”
“The apple of discord,” the little guy is mutterin’. “‘Twas ever thus, my dear. But why are you here now?”
“I been tellin’ my new boy friend about show business. He kept beggin’ me to do my stuff, and I finally gave in. Right after we eloped—maybe it’s the ham in me or somethin’, but I did my routine fer him, and I guess I musta forgot and added that extra wiggle.
“I figured he had it comin’,” she says. “Anyhow, here I am.”
“And you’ll stay here now, baby, wherever you been?” For a tough guy, Luigi sure looked soft-boiled, now.
The LaTour gave him a look that ain’t had the benefit of Ivory Soap. “I’m goin’ back.”
“I can speak their language fine now. Besides, there’s gonna be hell to pay because we eloped. And I gotta stick by Paris.”
“You goin’ to France, Miss LaTour?” I blurts out.
She laughs. Luigi is scowlin’, but the little professor is just noddin’ like he understands everything.
“I been there, fella,” she says to me. “I been everywhere.” She starts to hum a song I ain’t never heard before.
“This here’s LaTour’s farewell tour, men,” she says, startin’ to do some fancy movin’ around that makes my skin crawl, watchin’ her.
“Baby, you ain’t gonna start your routine here, are ya?” Luigi says.
“Shut up, creep, I gotta concentrate,” she squelches him.
The professor pipes up like he’s half asleep. “You know, Miss LaTour, there must be a destiny about all this….”
“La de day—yeah, that’s what that there Aphrodite told my new boy friend,” she throws a dazzlin’ smile at him over her shoulder, wavin’ that white robe around her flawless body.
“It won’t seem the same on Venus without you,” the professor sort of moans.
“Shut up, professor,” Luigi hollers, then that tough voice of his breaks, like he was almost cryin’. “Baby, stop dancin’ around.”
“Outa my way, ya lug. I’m workin’ up to the finale.”
“Please, baby. I’ll—I’ll give ya a million asteroids, honey. I won’t smoke no more of them there Saturn Stogies—”
The LaTour’s movin’ around gets more fancy all the time. She is all the moonbeams and flowers I ever seen, rolled into one. It was easy to unnerstan’ how she got to be the big star that she was—even here on rough and ready Venus. She had class, and somethin’ else—somethin’ that made ya keep watchin’ her every movement, like you was hungry for somethin’, but ya didn’t know what. And you wanted to jump up and down, and holler, but ya just couldn’t move because you was watchin’ so hard.
She was wigglin’ them beautiful, dimpled, rounded hips—
And then she wasn’t there anymore.
“Hey!” Luigi runs around the room like he is goin’ space-daffy.
“It’s no use, Luigi,” the little guy says, lookin’ sadder than ever. “She’s gone back. And this time I suspect it’s forever,” the prof says.
Luigi comes over to the little guy and grabs him by the throat.
“She can’t do that to me. Gone back where? Y’gotta tell me.”
“She’s gone back to Paris,” the prof says.
Luigi snarls like he is gettin’ a Martian sand-fever fit. “What? Leavin’ me fer some Frenchman? I’ll—”
“No.” The professor pulls away from Luigi. “This Paris is a part of ancient Greece—a young shepherd prince whose theft of the wife of Menelaos started the Trojan War.”
“Huh?” Luigi is as up in the air as I am.
“Helen….” The little, fella looks sort of thoughtful. “Of course. That was her name. Helen of Troy—LaTour. The queen of space. ‘The face that launched a thousand ships.'”
The professor nods at us. “Who would have ever believed—”
“Okay, pop,” Luigi looks tough again, and I am plenty scared.
“Hey Luigi,” I hollers, “You kin see the little guy is tellin’ the truth. He didn’t do nothin’—”
Luigi turns around, and I kin see the little red specks at the corners of his eyes. “Who says he did?” he snarls. He heads fer the open window, reachin’ in his vest fer his blood-freezer, and I kin hear him mutterin’.
“I’m goin’ after that guy Paris, and when I find him, I’m gonna turn the blaster on and smash him right through that there space warp!
“Yeah,” he hollers, standin’ there framed by that window fer a minute before he jets off, with all them millions of stars blazin’ like fury in the cleared-up Venusian night sky.
“No lousy Greek is gonna steal my girl and get away with it!”
I dunno. I ain’t seen Luigi since, but I’m willin’ t’wager a platterful of Plutonian Stingers that he ain’t never gonna master that there hip-wiggle.
Not like Helen LaTour, he ain’t.