International Writers Magazine - Our 18th Year: Dreamscapes Pringle Stories (Archives)
Pringle & the Scam Artist
Life is good, thought Sidney Rothenberg, sitting in a lounge chair
at poolside of the most luxurious hotel on the Caribbean island
of B-----. The latest weather report was that New York City, where
hed been just a week ago, was freezing with a snow storm on
the way. Here the sun, as always, shone overhead and a light island
Rothenberg was a
handsome man, 35 years old, his lean, muscular body displayed by his
small bathing suit. Hed completed his latest scam, not a large
one, a mere five billion or so, and had sent the proceeds to his offshore
account. It was time to relax. He signaled for another cold drink and
told the waiter to bring one to the blonde young woman, likely a tourist,
hed been eying (and whod been eying him). She raised her
glass to him and smiled. He was sure theyd be having dinner that
night and more afterward. Yes, life was good.
At the same time, in New York City, where the snow storm had hit, I
was in my apartment with my wife Ellen and my friend and fellow science-fiction
writer Al Abrams. Al had a problem, or rather, it was his wife Kathleens
problem. Shed recently inherited a fairly large sum of money from
an uncle. This was all to the good, but then Als latest novel
had been rejected by his publisher, things had gotten tight, and, thinking
to improve their situation, Kathleen had invested the inherited money
in a supposedly fool-proof scheme with a high rate of return. As usually
was the case with such foolproof schemes it turned out to be a scam
and now all the money had been lost.
"Kathleen was too embarrassed to come here herself," said
Al. "She feels awful, but her best friend recommended this guy
and he was a smooth talker and she fell for it."
"Do you know who he is?"
"His name is Sidney Rothenberg "
"Have you tried to go after him?"
"Hes not even in the country. Hes in some little island
in the Caribbean. Thats where he hangs out. Hes a big wheel
"Hmm. What did you think I could do?"
"I wasnt thinking of you. I was thinking of your Uncle Pringle.
He seems to be able to solve almost any problem."
Uncle Claude Pringle was really Ellens uncle, not mine. Hed
helped me out of a few difficult situations in the past, and also had
helped out some of my friends, including Al. He was retired from a government
agency whose name Id never learned and was now, he said, a consultant,
although what he consulted about I was never sure. I did know he had
a surprising number of contacts of all kinds and, as Al said, seemed
to be able to solve almost any problem.
I looked at Ellen. "What do you think?" I asked.
"I think you and Al had better see Uncle Pringle."
Uncle Pringle didnt have an office. He was usually to be found
on a bench in one of the city parks. He said it gave him a chance to
be outdoors and to observe people. Of course in this winter weather
I didnt think even Uncle Pringle would be out in a park, but I
thought I knew where to find him. The next morning, Al and I went to
a little coffee shop off Uncle Pringles favorite park and, sure
enough, there he was, at a table in the back. As we approached, a large
man with a comb-over got up from the table, said, "Thanks,"
to Uncle Pringle, and left.
"Dont forget, Donald," said Uncle Pringle. "You
have to be forceful."
"I wont forget," said the man with the comb-over as
he rushed by.
"Was that Donald Tr---," I started to ask.
"Just an old friend," said Uncle Pringle. "Now, have
some coffee and tell me what I can do for you."
Id always thought Uncle Pringle looked like his namesake, the
English actor Claude Rains. He was a small man, with neat hands and
feet, and white hair. He gestured to a waitress, who clearly knew him.
She brought our coffees, and Al related his story. Uncle Pringle listened
quietly, nodding his head at a few places and asking an occasional question.
"Can you help me?" asked Al, when hed finished.
"Yes, I believe I can. That name, Sidney Rothenberg, sounds familiar.
I believe it came up during one of our, uh, operations in the Caribbean,
but he was too much of a small fry to bother with. So hes a scam
artist now? Well, well soon put a stop to that."
"What will you do?" I asked.
"I still know an, ah, operative on the island of B-----. Ill
get in touch with her and get the lay of the land, so to speak. Well
proceed from there."
Sidney Rothenberg was in his usual poolside lounge chair. The blonde
tourist, to his disappointment, had left the day before. A tall bronzed
woman, clad in the tiniest of bikinis, pointed to the empty chair beside
his and asked if it was taken.
"Its all yours," said Sidney, eying her appreciatively.
He introduced himself.
"Im Molly Perkins. Have we met before?"
"Possibly. Ive spent a lot of time on the island."
"I know. Ive seen your picture in the newspaper. Youve
donated a lot of money to the island polo team, havent you?"
"Thats me. I try to help out when I can. Are you free for
"Lunch would be lovely, but Im afraid I have a golf date."
"At the Paradise club?"
"Yes. My uncles a long-time member."
"Ive been trying to get a membership for years."
"Well, its still mostly British, you know. Would you like
to meet the club president, Sir Wilfred Chase? Ive known him since
I was a child.."
"You could arrange that?"
"I think I can. Give me your card and Ill let you know."
Al and I were in the coffee shop again, at Uncle Pringles table.
Hed called us to this meeting. "My, uh, operative had made
contact with our friend Sidney," said Uncle Pringle, " and
I believe we have an opportunity."
"Whats that?" asked Al.
"Our friend is a snob. I suspect hes also an Anglophobe.
He very much wants to join the exclusive Paradise golf club."
"How does that help us?" I asked.
"My, uh, operative has arranged a meeting between Sidney and Sir
Wilfred Chase, the club president. Sidney will be given a chance to
join the club, but it will come at a price."
"You can have this Sir Wilfred act on your behalf?"
"Well, not exactly. Someone else will have to play the part of
"Wholl that be?"
Uncle Pringle coughed. "Ill be Sir Wilfred."
"You might pull it off," I said. "Ive always thought
you resembled that actor, Claude Rains."
"Several people have told me that. I never could see it."
The secretary had shown us into a large office at the golf club. "Sir
Wilfred has told us to extend you every courtesy," she said to
"Very kind of him. Were expecting a visitor. When he arrives,
please show him in."
Uncle Pringle had invited both Ellen and myself to accompany him to
the island and wed spent the previous day at the beach, a pleasant
change from New York.. Ellen was now at our hotel, awaiting word. In
a short while, the secretary showed in a tall handsome fellow, who smiled
at us showing brilliant white teeth. Introductions were made (I was
a personal assistant) and Sidney Rothenberg sat down. "I understand
youre interested in joining our little club," began Uncle
"It would be an honor. As you may know, Ive been a frequent
visitor to the island and now Im considering making it my permanent
residence. Ive always supported the islands development."
"Ah, yes, youve been a generous supporter of the polo team."
I noticed that Uncle Pringle was speaking with a pronounced English
accent. "I believe youve also invested in some of the islands
"Yes, I have a small stake in the new mall."
"Very good. I supposed youve also heard of the new hotel
were building on the far side of the island."
"No, I hadnt."
"Hmm, Im surprised. It will be one of the largest in the
world, and one of the finest. And it will have miles of unspoiled beach.
Of course, its almost fully invested."
Sidney Rothenbergs eyes gleamed. "Id definitely be
"Hmm. There might be room for a small stake, say $5 million or
"I think I can come up with that. And membership in the Paradise
"Oh, it goes without saying that anyone investing in our hotel
will be welcomed as a member of our club."
Rothenberg reached out to shake Uncle Pringles hand. The scammer
had been scammed.
After the funds had been transferred from Rothenbergs offshore
account and hed left, I called Ellen and she in turn called Al.
The money would shortly be returned to his wife Kathleen as well as
to the other investors. What was more, another publisher had accepted
"All seems to be well," said Uncle Pringle. "I propose
we join Ellen and spend an hour or two at the beach. My, uh, operative
will keep Sidney occupied for that time. Then Im afraid its
back to New York, but I hear its no longer snowing."
© Martin Green October 2009
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