by Lee Blevins
At ten o’clock last night the patrons of Chacker’s Cinema on 14th and Windlin witnessed firsthand a startling admixture of senseless gangland violence and movie magic.
The Benway Pictures hit comedy feature Soda Fountain Lenny was in its second reel when three men in trenchcoats and fedoras entered the theater.
“Flimsy” Andy Perkins hung around the lobby while Benjen Bartlow and Maximilian Andeli went to see the show.
None other than Boss Finney himself sat in the center front seat. He was still laughing at that famed scamp’s hijinks when the two latecomers filled him full of lead.
It just so happened that the very moment Boss Finney was assassinated, six off duty beat cops from the 13th Precinct walked into the theater in search of a laugh.
Nobody laughed, though, least of all “Flimsy” Andy Perkins who got dropped on the uptake before he could spill any blue blood.
Bartlow and Andeli heard quite well how outgunned they were because the organist had bent a couple keys when Boss Finney bit it.
Andeli, witnesses say, took charge. He ordered everybody in their seats or else. He reinforced his point with an exclamation mark made of bullets.
Once the crowd had settled some he hollered towards the lobby and made it clear that if the police gave them any trouble they’d start shooting up the joint.
Sergeant McCracken ordered one of his boys to phone in and told the rest to cover the exits. Then he tried to reason with those two bloodthirsty badmen.
But Andeli was wise to it and he told Bartlow they were each gonna have to take a hostage and get out while the getting was good.
The two killers were playing eeny meeny miny mo with the frightened theatergoers when a most peculiar thing occurred:
Lenny Lennon, the man of a thousand frowns, stepped out from behind the soda fountain counter, took off his apron, and then walked in that flop footed way of his right off the silver screen and down onto the theater floor.
Most of the crowd didn’t notice right away because of the tommy guns and everything but more and more of them caught on as the scamp sneaked up behind Andeli, held up a shushing finger to his lips, and kicked the goon in the seat of his pants.
Andeli jumped two feet up off the ground and let off a burst of gunfire that broke off a chunk of rafter and clocked Bartlow on the head, knocking him out cold.
Then Andeli, having landed on his back, took a wild shot at our favorite fool’s floppy feet.
But Lenny dived gracefully over the goon, bounced beautifully off his bulbous gut, and landed on his feet with a flourish.
Andeli sat up to clutch his belly ache better. Lenny took a bow, doffed his cap, and swung it back so swiftly it hit Andeli full in the face and knocked him back again.
But Bartlow, having previously been downed, was not yet out. He got to his feet quite groggily and rubbed the corners of his eyes. He looked from Andeli, flat on his back, to Lenny, waving at him flirtily, to the movie screen, strangely empty. He probably never put more than one and a half together before Andeli sat back up and took aim at the black and white buster.
At that very moment, Lenny noticed a vet in the audience and spun around in a straight legged salute. His right foot struck the barrel of Andeli’s tommy gun and landed it straight on Bartlow just as Andeli pulled the trigger.
Lenny jumped five feet, honest, and came crashing down on all fours like a scared kitty cat. The crowd came out of their collective petrification and made a run for it just as Sergeant McCracken and his reinforcements came rushing in from the opposite direction.
Andeli only had eyes for Lenny, who started crawling quick around the theater floor, chased by a dotted line of bullets. He crawled all the way around Andeli until the tommy gun artist had drawn a perfect circle on the floor.
Then Lenny put one hand under his chin, looked sarcastically at no one in particular, and gently tapped the floor just inside the dotted line. The circle of floor beneath Max Andeli gave out and he crashed to the subbasement.
Sergeant McCracken and his boys finally made it through the mad crowd and surrounded Lenny with guns drawn. He sprang to his feet and tried to explain what was what and who was who but it turned out that just because he wasn’t in a silent picture anymore, didn’t mean he knew how to talk.
Luckily, there was a kid named Harry Boyd in the theater that day who hadn’t run when everyone else did because he was the president of the local chapter of the Lenny Lennon Fan Club. Harry promptly explained that Lenny deserved not only a medal but a key to several cities, too.
That’s when Max Andeli poked his now hatless head up through the hole in the floor. He took one look at all the cops around and ducked back under. Lenny dived in after him.
There was a flurry of dust and exclamations and, mere moments later, Max Andeli came flying back up through the hole, clutching his rear end with both hands, and landed in a pair of handcuffs.
Lenny Lennon jumped out of the hole, landed on the edge and almost fell back in until he fired the tommy gun he’d grabbed back behind him. Its bullets forced him straight up again.
Sergeant McCracken promptly confiscated the gun and gave Lenny a sound handshake. Harry Boyd got him to sign his autograph. They hauled Max Andeli off to the pen.
Then Lenny Lennon walked back onto the screen, put back on his apron, went behind the soda fountain counter, and picked up the plot of the movie where he’d left off.
Soda Fountain Lenny is playing at a theater near you.